Monday, January 10, 2011

Today I Wear Green & Yellow

I grew up just outside of Eugene, Oregon, in a little town called Junction City.
It was the kind of place where 9 and 10 year old girls could ride their bikes the few miles from the farm outside of town to get to swim team practice.
Then, in their still set swimsuits and half-dry shorts, ride by Dari Mart on the way home to spend their allowance money on sodas... or by the Ben Franklin to get penny Jolly Ranchers.

In high school our church's youth group had an amazing opportunity to work the parking lots at the University of Oregon football games.
We'd stand outside Autzen stadium in the sometimes freezing fog, ushering cars to the open spaces.
Then we were rewarded by getting to sit in the End Zone.
The sun would come out, the air would warm up, and we'd shed our many layers.
We would eat hotdogs that were way too expensive but totally worth it.
We would cheer amidst the deafening roar of Autzen.
We would blow into the little yellow duck bill quackers 'til our lips were numb.
We would laugh with friends and sing the UofO fight song at the top of our lungs.

Then my sister went to Oregon State.
My Dad came out of the closet as a long-time Beaver fan.
And outside of my childhood home there suddenly waved an orange and black flag.
All things green and yellow were banished.

It was a bit confusing to me, because we had never been Super Fans of anything, save the Junction City High School Tigers.
It's not that I hated OSU, because I didn't. To me, they're Oregon just like UofO is Oregon.
But I hadn't grown up eating their hotdogs, sitting in their End Zone, singing their fight song.
What I couldn't reconcile back then, and have actually never been able to reconcile, is that the team we had seemed to enjoy so much over the years was suddenly the enemy.
What remained in my heart was that we had all loved attending those Duck football games at Autzen, and that I would always be a fan.
Because once an Oregon Girl, always an Oregon Girl... whether that's yellow & green or black & orange... or both.
(You can move away from the mint fields, but they never actually leave you.)

Over the years, Oregon has been up and down, tending toward middle of the road.
No one outside Oregon ever wore green and yellow... unless they were from Oregon.
So it's been bizarre to walk into Nike stores in Colorado and see green jackets with a big yellow O in their center.
I'm still startled and think "What?" every time the University of Oregon is mentioned regularly on ESPN... because that just hasn't been the case for... well... ever since we all had cable and satellite and the ability to even watch ESPN.
The Pac 10 has always been the underdog, always underrated.
But, we've also kind of done it to ourselves.
Over the years it's just seemed like every time the Ducks had an opportunity to step into success, they somehow threw it away... or spoiled it by one of their hooligans stealing tv's from a frat house... or punching another team's player after the game.
The Civil War would come along and it was always anyone's game, no matter who was on top that year.
I'd cheer for friends and acquaintances that would go through their system,
whether football or track or basketball.
(Your hometown is proud of you, Justin Wilcox.)

And now here we are.
Getting ready to root for them in the National Championship Game.
Come on, guys. Let's not throw this one away, too.
But, something in me says it will be different this time. That Coach Kelly has maybe been able to bring out of these oft-hooligans something greater.

So, today I'm wearing green and yellow... all the way to the tips of my fingers.
I'm humming the UofO fight song in my head.
Because it sure would be great to see an Oregon team bring it on home.

(And, Dad, don't worry. I root Oregon... as in the state of Oregon. So when the Beavs do make it someday, I already have my black and orange nail polish in the drawer. But you'll have to supply an OSU t-shirt.)

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