The two year wait is over, people. Oregon goes down to Tucson for the first time since that fateful day in 2007 to play a game of immense proportions with the 2009 Rose Bowl on the line.
Play your hearts out, Oregon. Play hard, play lights out. Bring your A game. Bring everything you've got and play with fire. Play as well as you can possibly play and win this game.
Don't do it because I'm begging you. Don't do it because the tens of thousands of Duck fans who have been shouting themselves hoarse all season long in Autzen, the Green Monster on the Pacific, desire it with every fibre of their being.
This one's for Dennis. You have to win this one for Dennis.
I don't mean to go all gipper on you all. But I speak from a two year long trough of trauma that still has not healed.
Where to place that moment in the Arizona desert in the pantheon of Oregon's hall of horrors? The one that took us from Glory Road to Nightmare Avenue in an instant as number 10 crumbled to the ground, the last play he would make in his college career behind him? Will we ever forget?
I remember every detail of that night with clarity. I was in, of all places, the other end of the country in Atlanta that day for a work event. As the day progressed while I was at a conference, my anxiety grew about whether my hotel room TV would actually get the game. Thank god it did, or so I thought when it started. In hindsight, I would rather have missed the game altogether.
Like every other fan traumatized that day, the replay of his cut to right and his drop to the ground will stay burnt in my memory. The dreams of a National Championship, so close and within our grasp, even the Heisman, melted away like shadows in the dark desert night.
Dixon would not even make it to New York. You know what? He deserved that Heisman he would surely have won. Not because he took us to #2. Not because of his staggering numbers and the juggernaut offense that was Oregon in 2007. Dixon was more than that. More than simple numbers, more than the win-loss ranks and results.
Dennis Dixon, he of the sleight-of-hand and on-field shell game, made football impossibly exciting. He made fools of the fans, the commentators and even the cameramen who couldn't keep up. It was edge-of-your-seat thrilling every time the Oregon offense was on the field. You never knew where the ball was. You never knew what play they would run. They had all these creative plays, fun plays. He threw impossibly beautiful balls down the field [Exhibit A: Oregon at Michigan, 2007].
He played with brilliance and flair and style, but even that wasn't his greatest strength. He had good judgement, good judgement, good judgement. He didn't panic. He stayed impossibly cool, doing the right thing. He scrambled and made something out of nothing when nothing looked unavoidable and anything looked crazy [Exhibit B: Oregon vs USC, 2007]. He pulled yards out of his silly, skinny legs and threw balls out of his deceptive, deceitful hands and he made it so miraculous that my everlasting memory of Dennis will always be of simply bursting out laughing, laughing and marvelling at what he had just done. He was the miracle man, the pretty ball, the high flyer and the strategic mastermind all in one. I don't know that I've ever been as excited about a football game as I was when he was playing. I will never see his like again, I know that for a fact. I don't know how I'll ever repay him for the sheer happiness and excitement he brought into my life.
So, Oregon, you have to go out on the field in Tucson and play your hearts out and win this game.
Because this one's for Dennis.