FanPost

A Day with the Ducks: My Experience in Eugene

I wasn't expecting that....

I was nervous about my trip to Eugene. I had rehearsed in my head the types of altercations I would encounter during the pregame festivities around Autzen stadium. The gameplan was oscillating between retaliation and keeping my composure. Each new imagined confrontation brought a different reaction out of me. For example, I thought "If they say ‘screw the Huskies’, I’ll just smile because it’s not worth the effort, but if they spit on me, I’ll knock their teeth out".


Most would call this type of "scenario prep" crazy, but this is how my potentially crazy brain works. I feel more capable of handling the unanticipated if I’ve considered most of the imaginable outcomes. It’s rooted in anxiety that I live with or "manage".


I was ready for a fight in Eugene. Maybe I even looked forward to it; I’m always looking for ways to prove to myself that I can belong in the world of "manly men". Hittin a Duck or two, or getting my own bruises could be a badge of honor to wear back to the Dawg Pound; it would should them how far I went to respect the Husky name.


Like I said, I was ready for a fight. I wasn’t ready for what actually happened. (How do I turn this into clickbait?)


My road trip companions could tell that something seemed off with me. We were almost to the freeway when I suddenly veered off on a side street to find a garbage can for the old coffee I had left in my car. I was embarrassed that I had subjected my guests to such a thing. Turns out it wasn’t old, moldy coffee, it was Howling Husky’s Frappucino (what a Nancy). I admitted to my anxiousness but dismissed their teasing as it felt justified. I had prepared and I was maintaining my high levels of testosterone to be ready upon arrival.


The drive was fairly uneventful. There was a lot of banter back and forth about how I drive like a grandma despite my young age (I was going 10-15 over most of the trip, their teasing isn’t justified, but I’m sure they will dispute this in the comments below). It was me, SkiDawg93, Howling Husky, and we picked up CallMeIshmael along the way. We occasionally rolled the tinted windows down to wave at our fellow Huskies migrating south, and we also occasionally flashed the ‘Dubs’ to a few Ducks making the same trip. There was the obligatory joke about how ‘The Duck’ was pumping my gas for me, but even then I couldn’t shake that I was more focused on the Duck Fans than the Duck Team.


Between Portland and Eugene, there wasn’t much to look at. I was disappointed, because at one time I had considered a few schools in this area (mostly Linfield) and I was hoping that I would appreciate the area a little more. But right as we entered the… valley or bowl? Of Eugene, it turned into quite the beautiful little area.


Let me back up a bit; Only a few years ago, I was considering becoming the ultimate traitor and…. Wait for it….. Enrolling in a University of Oregon graduate program. I thought about taking my UW Bachelor's degree and asking Oregon to teach me more of the things. But here’s the thing, from what I had read, I thought Eugene and I would get along great. And Addicted to Quack already knows this next detail…. I like watching Oregon football.


I like watching Oregon football… I would even go so far as to say… gulp…. I’m a fan.


COOL YOUR JETS. I am 100% a Husky. My blood is purple. I choke back tears when we lose and I choke back tears when we win. I spend most of my extra resources on Husky sports. I spend most of my free time on Husky sports. But let me tell you, there’s room for a lot of "fandoms" in this body, this big, supple body.


My first season as a Husky fan was 2008. I think you Duck fans remember this season even more than Husky fans do. One Husky fan "Oh, there’s an explanation for that. That was the year we didn’t field a team". Either way, I hold that season with a lot of reverence and endearment. It was my first time feeling apart of the team I was cheering for. I was investing time and resources in a school that was then investing in me. I lived the University of Washington every day. It was where I first felt free, self-sufficient, and where I became a human with an identity. My decades of BYU fandom sort of melted away into the background when I found out what it was like to love and be loved by a team. It didn’t matter to me that we lost every game. Well… it did… that part sucked. But my team was my team and I was their fan. I was there in the rain, I was there as the scoreboard became unbearable to look at. AND I was always really drunk (another new great thing I had come to love).


Oregon was exciting to watch. They gave me the excitement and the X’s and O’s and the execution that I wasn’t getting from Washington. I guess you could say they were my "second phone, person on the downlow, etc." I didn’t anticipate this, but when I became a Husky, I also solidly became a fan of the Pac10...12… whatever. And I wanted someone to carry that banner all the way to the national championship to show up those SEC foes that I DESPISE. Let’s not even get into that.


I’ll get back to the Oregon story, I promise. But just for a little justification. I grew up a BYU fan in Eastern Washington under the cloud of mormonism. My foes were Utah and the SEC, and Gonzaga and Wazzu were probably my most hated (and probably still are) opponents because of the nauseating regional pride that I encountered. Oregon was never on my radar as someone to hate. I didn’t grow up hating the Ducks, so it was easy for me to fall in love with that offense and develop a Chip Kelly crush (yes, he looks like a potato, but shut up, I swoon when he gets all smug, I don’t understand it, we don’t have to talk about it, but it’s still there).


Tangents are over (with one last tangent, those fricken math teachers in high school telling us that we need to remember sines, cosines, pfff, all I ever use are tangents). Anyway. Eugene is a great town. Some of you might disagree, and admittedly I only saw a tiny bit of it. But I liked the bits that I saw. The part of campus that I saw, the sports facilities, etc, they are great. I understand the pride and emotions that this can evoke in Duck fans. I get you guys.


Getting around and parking wasn’t the CRAPFEST nightmare that is Husky Stadium. It was nice to just… drive right up to the stadium and park for $20. I parked right behind the BAR NEAREST TO THE STADIUM for Harry’s sake.


Back to my emotions; we were running late. Long story short, traffic was bad, I dropped the other guys off at the stadium and I went and parked at The Cooler. I was DETERMINED to meet the people from UW Dawg Pound and Addicted to Quack that I had promised a showing to. The people taking my money for a parking pass were….. Really pleasant to me, despite my purple jersey. It was at this moment that I had been in the belly of the beast for 45 minutes and not a single one of my predictions had come true. Where’s the spit? Where’s the flying bags of piss? Had I been wrong to anticipate such things?


Turns out, showing up at 3:45 after promising to be there at 2:30 means no one is there to see you. Heck, I’m not sure anyone ever showed up to see us in the first place. But I’m starting to get used to this "I’m excited to meet y’all but maybe it’s not returned" since I’m single and alone with a cat and most of you all have wives and lives and a brood of children. But either way, I press on as the socializer that just weirds other people out. I am a heroine of some sort. My cause is a noble pursuit. Really, I think middle-aged Dads are my spirit animal. We just… click.


‘The Cooler’ is about as cool of a sports bar as you can find. It feels a little similar to our ‘The Duchess Tavern’. It’s old, beat up, but the bartenders were friendly and fast. People were getting drunk and watching football, and while I was getting stares as the only Husky in the bar at that time, I didn’t feel threatened. I downed two shots of Bulleit and watched USC begin to put Colorado away. Time to piss, and here’s where I was sure things were going to go awry. One Husky in a bathroom of Ducks, surely they will relish the opportunity.


"Here man, it’s all yours" said the duck as he offered me the toilet he no longer needed to use. He was NICE about it. Washing my hands next to a Duck, he bumps me with his elbow, "Sorry about that" he said.... I smiled but kept my guard up, surely this is part of their strategy…


I went back up to the bar, wading through Duck fans… nothing. Not a single negative comment. Bartender helped me quickly, another shot and a stout to drink on the way out. My time at The Cooler was…. Pleasant. "Enjoy the Game" said the bouncer as I was leaving. Side-eye suspicious glance…


Walking down MLK way (which is by far the nicest MLK road I’ve ever been on) I was surrounded by a mix of Dawgs and Ducks… and not a single trash talk. Maybe none of us knew what to expect this year. Were we all petrified by the unknown outcome?


The facilities are great. This fountain thing is cool. Ticket takers were nice. I’m walking into the stadium. No slurs, no obscene gestures…. Nothing.


Here’s where it starts to get weird. The national anthem is playing and we are waiting the tunnel to get to our section. We start to move and this large Duck fan puts his arm around me and says something like "I think this might be your year, we’ve had some fun, but you all are looking pretty good". I jab right, counter left and…. Wait… what? We then proceed to COMPLIMENT each other’s teams and say how it’s going to be a great game. We wish each other good luck and he parts with "Drive home safe tonight".....


………… All of this fight preparation for nothing.


I find the Pound guys and our section and I notice that the section to my right is a mix of Huskies and Ducks. The rows behind me and the three in front of me are mostly Huskies (with the exception of four Ducks directly in front of me).


I start to take in the sights and again, like I felt when I entered Eugene, I felt warmth. This stadium, despite its TERRIBLE sound system (the first thing I noticed) was…. Beautiful. It was intimate. It was interestingly shaped. Not a bad seat in the house. The view of the hills in the distance was…. Approaching gorgeous? The comparisons to Husky Stadium started cataloging in my head. I don’t want to go into it very much since I am writing for both UWDP and ATQ, but let’s just say that I don’t think anything can beat Husky Stadium, but let me tell you this: Autzen is a gem. Autzen is a place where you could spend your life rooting for a team and have it feel magical and feel like home. I get it Oregon. I really get it. I have a romantic appreciation for Autzen. And I’m pretty sure I will be back in two years. Fix that god damn sound system.


The bickering has started. The dude bros in front of me are doing the "12 years bro, for real fam" (I don’t speak dude bro, so someone will have to translate) then a Husky dude bro retaliates "nah bro, 100 years winning percentage big picture, step off, on fleek". The evening couldn’t finish unscathed.


I hate what happened in front of me. I wasn’t part of it in the least. I just watched. Both sides should be embarrassed, and you know what? The Husky fans ended up being the worst of the bunch. Now… that’s probably because of the way the score went. All but one of those Ducks ended up moving to another section. And I don’t blame them. But I’m also not giving them too much credit, because they were a little insufferable until the score deflated them.


But you know what, I was keeping my spirits high. I was thinking "Ok, this isn’t a Husky or a Duck problem, it’s just dude bros that ruin it".


Now here is going to be the biggest shout out for the Ducks. Remember the one Duck that stayed? Want to know why he stayed?


He was taking care of a drunk Husky.


Every section has that drunk possibly 21 year old that learns hard liquor the hard way. We had a Husky that was stumbling, swaying falling, etc. Who took care of him? A Duck. He called for some water and a Husky threw it down to him. He sat on the bench with the drunk Husky and talked to him, missed some of the game. He genuinely took care of him. The Husky was starting to heal a bit, and the Oregon guy walked down the stairs and I thought that was the end of it.


10 minutes later the Duck is walking back up with water and a churro. This guy was trying to alter the balance in the universe. What is he getting out of this? Is he just a nice guy? He gives it to the drunk Husky and continues to give him personal care. It’s probably the feeling of "I’ve been there before, someone looked after me then, I need to look after him now" but they were supposed to be sworn enemies. Throw in some Lea Salonga and we have a Disney hit on our hands.


The Duck stayed for most of the game. He clapped politely when Oregon did something well and he maintained a stoic silence as Husky fans erupted around him time and time again. I couldn’t help but look his way after each touchdown. Why is he here? Is he maintaining some integrity about not having to leave his section? I could sense him weathering the storm and gaining something out of it.


He was very friendly. He carried on conversations with many of us about our teams, about Seattle/Eugene, about upcoming opponents, etc. He explained to me that Bi-Mart is not a place where bi-sexual people go to purchase things for their bi-sexual needs (this was disheartening). It was fun bridging the experiences of growing up in Washington vs Oregon.


The guy was pleasant. I was looking for an ulterior motive. Never found one. As he was leaving, I told him how far the impression he left will go for me. I mentioned that he is completely welcome at our tailgate at Husky Stadium.


Of all the Ducks I interacted with in my short 7 hours in Eugene, he’s the one that stands out. Duck fans were classy. They were kind and a little self deprecating, but they were… really easy to get along with.

And the burly dads were pretty nice to look at too.... Damn your wedding rings.

The anxious and violent expectations had melted into a warm blanket. I think it was the third quarter. The slaughter was in full effect, but we were looking around; the Ducks were still in their seats. Now, to take a little of the credit away, it did seem like maybe most of them were down from Portland, so maybe you stay longer no matter what. But let me tell you. When the Huskies are on the dishing or receiving ends of a beat down, Husky stadium EMPTIES. Maybe we try to beat the rush, maybe we try to secure a spot at the nearest watering hole, but regardless, we disappear.


"YOU KNOW YOU MAKE ME WANNA SHOUT, KICK MY HEELS UP AND SHOUT, THROW MY HANDS UP AND SHOUT….. DON’T FORGET TO SAYYY YOU WILLLL… DON’T FORGET TO SAAYYYAYYYAYYYY"


The Ducks were dancing… harder than the Huskies. The "O" in the student section was whipping around harder than Willow Smith’s hair. The Ducks were still there, and they were having fun. The Ducks are in the middle of a dumpster fire, a possible collapse, a possible flip where the 2008 apple cup was a pillow fight between two TERRIBLE cupcakes, and now Washington and WSU sit atop the Pac12 North while Stanford and Oregon have fallen out of contention. And the Duck fans are dancing.


That was almost a spiritual moment for me. In that moment, I was sure that I like The Ducks. I already knew that I liked their teams, I liked their X’s and O’s, I had a crush on Chip Kelly and Doug Brenner (God can he make me a personalized calendar), but I like Duck fans. I like Duck fans.


Now, before UWDP gets their panties in a knot, I RECOGNIZE that this is a single anecdotal experience from a single perspective. In the 3 home games at Husky Stadium against the Ducks, I have experienced some of the foulest, rudest behavior I’ve ever encountered in life. In 2009, I had to leave my section (much like the Ducks in front of me this year) because of the vile words that were hurtled my way.


So what is it? Are the Ducks the kind, dancing, caring fans that I encountered last night? Are they the Ducks from my negative Husky Stadium experiences?


For one thing, it has to be a bit of the "top of the totem pole" experience. The Ducks were still in their seats, and they were still cheering mightily for Duck touchdowns, but they were deflated from before the pregame. Maybe the bite that they have carried is disappearing. Maybe they are true Northwest gentlepersons, and the success got to their heads? It’s hard to pin it down, but I carried this absurdly positive experience with me back to Seattle.


I am not a writer, but I write this because I want to make a difference. I want to encourage growth and change. Huskies, it is time to call you out. Get ready.


Blind hatred and bitterness is never a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, it is fun to have an overwhelming desire to crush opponents teams. Keep that fire alive. I would love to sweep the Cougars and the Ducks for the rest of my days. But I will have a better time, I will ENJOY it more than you will if I can have a beer with their fans and engage in friendly conversation. If they know they are safe at my tailgate and my stadium, I think they will return the favor when we visit.


I’m not asking you to forget the spit, the foul language, the Washing12 or 12ingtons. Both the Ducks and the Huskies have some behavior to be ashamed of. And both blogs know that I feel that the Ducks have been a little worse on the abuse. I honestly don’t see the piss hurtling and the spit..spitting ever being a thing with Huskies… that just isn’t something we do no matter what the score is. Cougs have puked on our vehicles, thrown ice at our heads, etc. But you know what, there’s nothing like partying with a Coug.


Both sides, hear me: We have been awful to each other. But it is never going to get better if we say "Well I want to see it from them first". I’m asking you to not forget the awful things that have been done or said to you, start TODAY to treat the other side well IN SPITE of how you’ve been wronged in the past.


I don’t want the banter to end, I don’t want the trolling to end. Let me tell you, spend some time on Addicted to Quack, they have some FUNNY and smart comments on there. They have characters. They have team pride and they love the crap out of their school. Respect and love that about them. Love their irreverence and sarcasm.


Ducks, visit the UW Dawg Pound, ask for your ban to be removed first. Visit the Pound. We love our team and we love the Pac12. We have some GREAT writers. We have a great community. You are welcome to visit, and just don’t be belligerent.


Back to you Huskies: We might be on the precipice of something great, a dynasty perhaps (Duck fans scowl). But if we do rise to prominence, if we do get a 12 streak of our own, let’s do it with class. Let’s not let success get to our heads. On a side note, I do not condone what was done on Oregon’s field after the game. Stay off the field. That is their place. I don’t care what they have done to our ‘W’ in the past. Stay off their field. Autzen is too good of a place for that. Their fans care too much about their school. Again, don’t ever give me the excuse of "THEY DID IT TO US". Grow up. If we have success coming our way, then let’s let the scoreboard talk.


Ducks, I’m rooting for you for the rest of the season. Thank you for the magical experience. If you fear coming to Husky Stadium, all you have to do is come to my tailgate and no Husky will mess with you. You are welcome in our stadium and at our festivities. You are safe and will be treated with respect if the respect is returned. I loved what I saw. I loved seeing you love your team despite their performance.


One last thing; leaving Eugene, we had one last experience that was…. Neutral. We were driving by The Cooler on our way out, and a drunk Duck began to stumble backwards into the street into the path of my car. I slammed on the brakes and honked. Through our open window he angrily yelled "GET OUT OF YOUR #%@@ing CAR AND JOIN THE PARTY".


I salute you, Duck. I wasn’t expecting that, or any of it really.






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