Or, schadenfreude, and how I thought I might have to attack Jeremy Perry with a trumpet.
Every Duck fan has their favorite Civil War. Perhaps yours was 1994, when Danny O'Neil and Dino Philyaw took Oregon to its first Rose Bowl since 1958. Or maybe it was 2001, and Keenan Howry's punt return TD springing the Ducks to a win. Or maybe it was 2009's "War of the Roses", or 2010's romp in Corvallis to propel Oregon into the national title game. But my favorite was 2008, a game simply known in my mind by the final score.
Every Duck fan has their favorite Civil War. Share your favorite in the comments section.
It was the second quarter of the 2008 Civil War, and the game had already begun to swing toward the Ducks. Jeremiah Johnson had already ripped off a 79 yard run, and the Ducks led 17-7 after a quarter of play. Oregon State opened the second quarter with a promising drive, only to see kicker Justin Kahut shank a chip-shot field goal. After three field goals, two by the Ducks, Lyle Moevao and OSU got the ball with 2:13 remaining in the half, down 23-10. Moevao proceeded to lead OSU on a rousing three-and-out, and the Beavers punted back to Oregon.
I spent four of my five years at Oregon as a member of the marching band, the last of which, 2008, as the trumpet section leader. This Civil War was to be my last Pac-10 game as a member of the OMB, the last Civil War I would get to spend with a seat on the field, the last time I would get to march in the state of Oregon. Needless to say, this game was carrying more weight than usual, even for a rivalry game.
The OMB was performing first during halftime. This means having to set up to march on before the first half ends. For some reason, a reason of which I am still unclear, our band director had us set up on the northeast sideline of Reser Stadium, the northeast sideline being the one that the OSU team stands on, and the student section stands behind. As a bit of role reversal, if my rival school's marching band decided to come stand between my team's student section and the field, I would think it a terrible idea, and would rain upon them the most outrageous and distasteful hatespeak and mockery known to the English language. I was expecting nothing less from the OSU students.
Following the Johnny Hekker punt, we got the call to move towards our halftime spots. We grabbed our instruments, and prepared for the worst. The boos began as soon as we began walking towards the OSU sideline: the Beaver student section, already frustrated by a lackluster first half, decided to take out their disgruntlement out on us. I can safely, and proudly, say that I have never been give more middle fingers in a ten-minute period than that day in Corvallis. All kinds of people were demanding to fuck me: men, women, shirtless and painted people, scary bearded men. It was flattering, and a little scary.
It was at that moment that Jeremiah Johnson decided to break off his second 75+ yard run of the first half, an 83 yard touchdown that put the Ducks up 30-10. With the band spread out, and with no director to lead us, there was no way we could give a proper rendition of "Mighty Oregon", so we did the next best thing: we sang it. We sang the crap out of it. Tactically, this was the opposite of what we should have done. We should have kept our mouths shut, and hoped the final couple minutes ticked off the clock as fast as possible. But no, we sang the fight song, loud and proud. The next minute or so was a blur of trash, boos, cursing, and all manner of outward distaste. One young scholar even took it upon herself to throw a bunch of white paint on a half-dozen band members (she spent the night in jail, and was forced to pay a couple thousand dollars in damages). Despite the abuse, we finished the fight song. What happened next was perhaps the most glorious moment of schadenfreude I will ever experience: the Walter Thurmond III pick-six.
Let me remind you: JJ scores a touchdown, OMB sings the fight song, vitriol of the highest order. When Moevao's pass landed in Walter Thurmond's hands, and he started booking for the end zone, things went a little differently. Being the ill-advised jackasses we are, when WTIII hit the endzone, we all had the exact same idea: sing it again, and louder. This time? There was no booing or throwing things. It was only dejection. Thousands and thousands of orange and black-clad people who were dreaming of a Rose Bowl only a couple hours earlier, now reduced to long faces and head-scratching. It was 37-10 Ducks, we were screaming Mighty Oregon in a sea of Beavers, and there was nothing they could possibly say in retort. However, not even a 27 point deficit could stop injured Oregon State offensive lineman Jeremy Perry from being really, really mad at us.
This was Jeremy Perry's last Civil War as an Oregon State player. The 2005 Pac-10 co-Freshman of the Year had immense talent, NFL talent, but a series of debilitating leg injuries prevented him from realizing his potential. His 2008 Civil War was being spent on the sideline, in street clothes. He couldn't help his team on the field, who were in the process of being blown out. And these scrawny little shits in green and yellow were on his sideline, singing and acting like crazy people. He was pissed at us, and rightly so. Now, I may be misremembering this, on account of mirth-spun drunkenness, but I swear this happened. Perry turned around, and started walking toward the band, with one of the most frightening death stares I've seen in person (AJ Tuitele and Patrick Chung are the other finalists). Between Perry and myself was a tiny trumpet player named Heather, 5 foot 3 when wearing shoes. Perry's measurables at the time were 6'2", and probably 325 pounds. Hashtag, mismatch. In hindsight, was Perry ever going to do anything more than just glare at us and walk away? No, of course not. But at the time, an endless number of possibilities were running through my head, not the least of which was the thought of having to defend my friends against a giant human, and immediately thinking that my trumpet would make a fantastic bludgeoning tool in a pinch.
In the end, there was no violence; there was only a blowout Oregon win, the crushing of dreams, and the best possible going-away present Mike Bellotti could have given his program. Since that Civil War, Oregon is 45-7, 32-3 in conference play, and 3-0 against Oregon State. And since that day, I haven't been threatened by any giant Hawaiians. It feels pretty good.