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Tako Tuesdays: The Juju Dilemma

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Before the season started, I had "health and general well-being of Oregon's patellae" ranked fairly low on the list of non-conference season priorities, somewhere in the vicinity of "getting Tyson Coleman quality reps" and "having a minimum of six touchdowns per game". Sidenote: we've accomplished those other two. But the losses of both John Boyett and Carson York have brought about an issue that really hasn't plagued Oregon since the now-notorious 2007 season: injuries, in spades. The general lack of major injuries have been a very under-publicized factor in Oregon's rapid rise to college football's elite; there is the fact that Oregon's starting quarterback has been injured for at least one game in every year since Chip Kelly arrived in Eugene, but it has really been only one or two games per season; in fact, without a quarterback injury to Justin Roper against Purdue in 2008, we might not have seen Jeremiah Masoli emerge as a two-year starter. In the national championship game run of 2010, Darron Thomas missed about a half of football with injury. You have to be injury-lucky to have a great season, and Oregon has been able to do that for the past four seasons. It seems already that 2012 will break that trend.

If you've been following Addicted to Quack for the past few years, you've probably spiraled into a jaded, overneurotic slice of Oregon fandom come to hear the term "Juju" thrown about, both ironically and not. From a historical perspective, Juju is a West African form of voodoo spiritualism that has developed a karmic connotation in contemporary culture. At ATQ, the idea of Juju evolved into this all-seeing guardian, who demands respect and fealty in exchange for wins and intact ligaments. In 2011, we decided as a blog to cast Juju aside: why should outside influence try our patience and determine our fate? We set out on our own, and emerged Rose Bowl champions.

Now the injury bug has crept back into the program, and two straight inconsistent performances have the inflated expectations of the Duck fanbase on edge. This seems like an opportunity for us at Addicted to Quack to make a proactive decision: do we need to re-embrace Juju?

The Case for Juju

We can't afford to take a chance on this one. Oregon's schedule sets up very well for a national championship run. The offense has more weapons than Tony Stark, and the defense is both deep and experienced. In what looks like to be an underwhelming year for the Pac-12, a talented-yet-undermanned USC team seems to be all that stands between Oregon and an undefeated season. The only thing that can possibly derail that path is the catastrophic injury bug. After two weeks, we've already lost two seniors, and two vocal and inspirational leaders. John Boyett has been a consistent and devastating force in Oregon's defensive backfield since 2009. Both a tremendous tackler and instinctive ballhawk, Boyett has been the one guy on the Duck defense that we haven't had to worry about. Even when there were questions up front, or the linebackers were replacing Paysinger and Matthews, or Cliff Harris was off ruining his life, John Boyett was going to show up, rack up twelve to fifteen tackles, and leave absolutely every ounce of himself on the turf. And Carson York has been exactly the same thing, except on offense. He was a steady performer on the offensive line, and was poised to be the first four-year starter on the offensive line since Max Unger. He provided leadership in the locker room (though that isn't going anywhere), and he's one of the very best Ducks to follow on Twitter (and will continue to be). We can't afford to lose any more guys of that importance. And if crawling back into Juju's arms could help that cause, then damnit I'm in. Fans are brutally powerless when it comes to the play of the teams we root for, and having something like a superstition makes us feel more connected. That's what Juju provided. And it's time to reconnect.

The Case against Juju

What has Juju done for us lately? We worshipped her in 2009, and she made LeGarrrette Blount kick the ball out of the endzone; we praised her name in 2010, and Michael Dyer's knee remained airborne. We cast her aside in 2011, and Darron Thomas led the Ducks to a Rose Bowl championship. Chip Kelly, not Juju, has assembled perhaps the greatest cast of athletes to ever play together for the Ducks. We've got Mariota, Mamba, Barner, Ifo and T-Mitch, BoLo and DJ. We've got a freshman class that is already proving their worth, setting the team up for sustained success. This is not about the trivial mythology of a meddling quasi-deity; this team is built on community, speed, and never making excuses.

Fuck Juju. This team can do it themselves.