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Clutter, Simplification, and Beating Washington

The challenges posed to the 2016 Ducks shows what truly matters to fans and the program.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”


For the last six years Oregon has been at the top of the college football world. The Ducks have far outperformed what their recruiting classes, their in-state talent level, and football history should dictate. With the winning came intense national attention, the uniforms being story every week of the season, multiple visits by College Gameday, and complaining against why a brand name school is ranked above Oregon in the top-10.

Alabama has been a program that remembers to keep things simple even when the entire country is telling them how great they are and no matter how many championships they win. Nick Saban puts a maniacal emphasis on tackling and blocking in the preseason. It comes as no surprise that the team is always the favorites to win the title. When a team is down and not performing well you hear the coaches talk about simplifying things. Because football really is a simple game. Tackle well, block well, don’t turn the ball over, and force turnovers.

“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.”

-Leo Tolstoy

A practice that some friends have done along with thousands of others is called “decluttering.” They take all the things in their lives and homes and toss them out. They get rid of clothes they haven’t worn in over a year, pots and pans they never use, some even cut out friends that don’t bring them happiness, and it’s all in the effort to cut away the fat that can come with searching for luxury. Luxury might exist in simplicity. I am a strong believer in decision fatigue and that the more decisions I have to make in a day the worse my decisions are. The more I can avoid decisions on things that don’t matter the better I am at making decisions on things that do matter.

The first five weeks of this season have stripped away the luxuries within the athletic department that we thought were important, that if the Ducks win a national championship one can die in peace and stop caring so much every year, and that not making it to the playoffs, or that not winning the conference, makes the season a failure. After the first five weeks of the season we have simplified what is important to us as fans.

Over-complication and clutter happens to athletes as well. I love this quote by Ricky Williams from the documentary Run Ricky Run:

“Now that I don’t care about money. I don’t care about fame. I literally would play for free. I don’t care what anyone says. I’m not scared of anything. When it comes down to pure football, I realize that I really do love playing football.”

-Ricky Williams

It is not uncommon for the fame, money, and distractions that come with excelling to take away the joy of why one started. It has been easy to get caught up in chasing national championships and forget what the roots of the program’s rise have been about. The jerseys (even though they are a product of the Nike marketing team and an effort to recruit top recruits while simultaneously making money by providing new products to buy every week) aren’t as fun when Oregon isn’t putting teams in the dirt. An offense that scores 40 points a game isn’t as satisfying when the defense is giving up nearly 300 yards rushing on the ground to an air raid team.

One of the victims of the rise to the top has been the focus taken away from the rivalry with Washington. For years the Huskies were terrible, and we took joy in their losses and our victories over them, but it was a convenience in many minds. The rivalry with Washington has been a zero-sum game. It is not a coincidence that Oregon’s rise to the top of college football was sparked by a victory over Washington in 1994. Oregon’s ability to stay at the top of college football has occurred parallel to Washington’s inability to get out of the bottom of the conference.

Washington is the favorite to win the conference and depending on who you listen to Oregon is either struggling or that the end for the program is soon. Today Oregon gets to show that they will not go quietly into the night. That they will not be defined by the last few weeks, the harping of fans, the criticisms from analysts, or maybe even some doubters within the program.

The simplest and most important goal, when all the clutter is out of mind, is to beat Washington. I have written about the importance of the rivalry thoroughly and so has BenzDuck. The best quote on the important thing for Oregon football was said well when former linemen Geoff Schwartz, but Duck forever, tweeted this out after the loss to Nebraska:

Beat the Huskies. Go Ducks.