Finally, in week 7 of 2010, the Oregon football team is #1 in the rankings. Yes, #1 in the AP Poll and #1 in the USA Today Coaches Poll rankings. Yes, those very same deplorable, objectionable rankings whose creation often seem the product of drug snorting, crazy, addled minds who have never watched a college football game.
For the record, we have never been ranked #1. So close, the year of Dennis Dixon magic in 2007, before a brutal moment of tragedy took him down in the Arizona desert. So close, the year of the 2002 Fiesta Bowl stomping of Colorado, when we should have been playing in the title game instead of Nebraska and that darned ol Heisman-stealing Eric can't-throw-a-pass-to-save-his-life Crouch.
Really, though -- what does it mean? Symbolic victory? Yes. Terrific milestone? Sure. Actual value? Zero. Pure style over substance. It's not even myth-making. All it means is that we are the popular flavor of the week. More people think we're the best at the moment than any other team. That means diddly squat for fans who are hungry for real accomplishment. Real accomplishment would be the national championship, however mythical. The actual trophy that was so close, so close. Like the moral victories of 2002 and 2007, mid-season popularity is about as satisfying as a light souffle. Pleasant, but lacking in meat, lacking in any hunger-satisfying content.
We've had enough of moral victories. If you've been around as long as I have, and most Duck fans go back way longer than I do, you remember those moments of pain, quite apart from the years of suffering. This fan wants the steak, the vegetables, the fruit, the dessert -- the whole enchilada. Sure, #1 in October is nice. But all that matters to this fan is being ranked #1 post-bowl season in January. With the intensity of a thousand burning suns, mind you. That's how hungry I am.
It's true, we've played our way into a position where it's under our control to walk that road. The spectacular victories of this year seized mindshare and set opinion in our favor. The years of getting better laid the foundation. We've done enough to overcome East Coast Bias, ESPN SEC BIAS, BIG 10 Prejudice, USC Dominance, and general West Coast Obliviousness. We've done enough to get on the road. We've still to walk all the way down that road, though, at the end of which lies the holy grail.
For that, I laud Chip Kelly's attitude. Win the Day. Focus on the things under your control. Win the next game. Anything less will be insufficient. Whether it's enough to reach the end of the road has still to be proven. Anyone who gets excited by being #1 in October and, even worse, trash talks about it, well, just isn't hungry enough. For the memories of those who've waited all these years, and those who have paid in sweat, blood, broken bones (muscles), tears, I'm glad the Duck players and the coaches get it. I'm glad they share that vision. I'm glad they have the right focus.
Win the Day.