Duck soup meets Beaver fever

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer June 17, 2013 10:34 am
We are a mixed marriage. My wife, the person I call Wonder Woman, grew up an Oregon State University fan — a Beaver. I grew up a University of Oregon fan — a Duck.

Last weekend, in a brief moment of insanity, I rooted on the Beavers’ baseball team in humid Omaha where they were playing in the College World Series along the banks of the muddy Missouri River and stockyards holding approximately 900,000 bawling cows.

The Beavers defied a long history of Oregon sports misery in 2006 and 2007 and won national baseball titles. Now they are back in the heartland dodging tornadoes and seeking another championship — and the ultimate corndog.

Being Sunday was Fathers Day, I thought of my dad, gone since 1997 after succumbing to bone cancer. He would have been stunned with all that has happened since: the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, two Beaver national baseball titles, an African-American president. Born in 1926, Dad was 13 the last time any Oregon team in a major sport won a national title. It was 1939 when a team nicknamed the Tall Firs from the University of Oregon, coached by Howard “Double H” Hobson, won the inaugural NCAA Division I basketball title. Of course, tall in those days was 5-feet-11. 

Admittedly, Oregon teams have won national titles. They’re just not in sports seen on prime-time TV. OSU won the 1971 men’s cross country title and the 1926 wrestling title, an event covered extensively by telegraph.

Oregon, meanwhile, can claim 21 national championships. Besides the 1939 basketball title, the rest of them have come in cross country and track, special sports in Eugene and endured in the rest of the country.

So there, Beavers.

Oregon’s colors are green and gold. Oregon State’s are orange and black. I went to the dark (orange and black) side once, but only briefly.

In 1977, I attended OSU for three weeks but fell prey to the temptations of Indian summer. My classes were taught by graduate students to whose English skills were at best suspect. The lectures were conducted in basements that smelled of mold and boredom. I escaped over the concertina wire for a bicycle trip to Phoenix, where a friend was building swimming pools.

After three months of bicycling, exploring the wonders of the Southwest and trying to find the birthplace of Wile E. Coyote, I moved to Eugene, began attending the University of Oregon studying for a degree in journalism and took the vows of poverty. I wanted to write for a living, even if it meant living on macaroni and prayers.

Today, 30 years later, I wish I had enough money to build OSU lecture halls with windows. I could be the Phil Knight of light.

The Nike founder is famous for putting financial wind in the Ducks’ current athletic sails. 

Wonder Woman amuses me by getting me Duck presents. On a recent birthday, she had special shoes designed, low-top Chuck Taylor Converse with “Go Ducks” enscribed on the side. They are the world’s most uncomfortable tennis shoes. Walk a mile in them and you feel as if you have duck-walked across country.

I have not totally converted my wife of 1-1/2 years to Duck fandom. Occasionally, she still reverts to rooting for the Beavers, but is an RBI single reason to dance irrationally around the living room squawking like Edith Bunker scolding Archie on “All in the Family”? 

Yet Teri is softening. She is becoming more amenable to rooting for the Quack Attack football team, for doing Duck calls when Chip Kelly’s teams screamed across the TV screen with their blur offense.

I am for the Ducks, but will root on the Beavers when necessary. She is for the Beavers, mostly. We are a mixed marriage. I couldn’t be happier.