The madness is beginning…


By Sam Finley, EDN

Get out your green and yellow (or black and yellow, if you prefer).  The months of anticipation are about to come to a halt.  Yes, it is hard to believe, but Oregon’s football season is just over three weeks away.  In about two weeks, I’ll give a prediction for how I think the Ducks will do this season.  But not today.

No, this time, I’ll simply discuss what I’m looking forward to this year and why. So let’s start with one of my favorite things to do during any given season:  Talk to Oregon’s defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti.  Journalists always love it when they can ask a guy one question, and he gives them an answer that could cover their whole story.

Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti can talk with the best of them. (Photo Courtesy: Eric Evans).

Aliotti never fails to disappoint in this category. The guy loves to talk at great length, and even if his defense isn’t playing well, he always tries to stay in good spirits when talking to the press.  Moreover, he’s always willing to at least give you a minute of his time, even when he is in a hurry.

But from a personal standpoint, I suppose I really like talking to coach Aliotti because of something he said to me last summer.  I was interviewing him in his office, and he told me that he was glad to sit down with me, because I had always been fair with him.  That may not seem like much of a compliment, but to a journalist, it tells you that someone has been impressed with how you conduct yourself at games and practices.  Thus, it is the highest honor a frequent interviewee can pay the interviewer.

Another thing I’m looking forward to this season is something we might as well expect to be coming our way once or twice before it’s all over:  ESPN GameDay.  When they bring their crew to your town to do their show, it means the biggest matchup in college football is being played in Autzen Stadium.

Yes, the GameDay crowds can get a little crazy at times, but it’s a good kind of crazy.  It is a chance for quacker backers to prove why they have one of the best fan bases in the country.

Of course, you also have to love it when ESPN GameDay comes here, because of Lee Corso.  It amazes me that so many people can remain entertained by the same act done over and over again:  During the game predictions segment, Lee will always put on the Duck mascot head, confirming he expects Oregon to win the game.

I suppose that it has less to do with the result of the action, as much as how he’ll perform it.  Will he do it in the crowd surrounded by cheerleaders and then ride off on a motorcycle?  Or will he simply sit at the desk with the rest of the crew and don the head right there and then?  Nonetheless, it is an act that never gets old.

But in all honesty, I’ll tell you the real reason I like it when GameDay comes to town:  It is a great excuse to get your picture taken with the folks like Corso, Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, and Desmond Howard.  Truthfully, I have yet to have my picture taken with any of these guys, and that’s because I was making sure I had my spot secured for a snapshot with Erin Andrews.  A guy has to have his priorities, right?

Yours truly with ESPN's Erin Andrews. Poor me, huh? (Photo Courtesy: Michael Konowitz).

Seriously, if you really want to know what I’m looking forward to this year, it is the overall journey that takes place.  It is possible that the opening game against LSU in Dallas will tell us everything about the 2011 campaign for the Ducks, win or lose.  But it is also possible, that like the debacle at Boise State two years ago, it could tell us nothing. (I mean, was anyone thinking that season would end with them playing in the Rose Bowl at the time?  Probably not).

There are going to be some seasons like 2009, when the team is going to start slow and still find a way to get it together for greater heights.  There will also be others where the team, like in 2002, could start fast with a 6-0 record and a number six national ranking, only to have a fatal flaw (like an undersized secondary) eventually cause them to finish 7-6.  And then there are years like last year, where the Ducks were able to run the regular season table and have the chance to play for the national championship.

However, even in that latter case, it’s not like Oregon played perfect in every game.  Sure, they were able to plant 50 or more points on the scoreboard against teams like Stanford and USC.  But they also had to grind it out against Cal to the very last second, and it took them a half against Arizona and Oregon State before they made the necessary adjusments and make just enough plays to win the game.

If every game was truly a sure thing, why would we even bother to watch?  I can tell you what is likely to happen, but the truth is no one knows until the event is played.  It is because there is always a sliver of doubt in every contest that we get so passionately involved in the final outcome.  And it is also why, in the end, win or lose, we simply need to enjoy the journey.  Otherwise, there is no fun in sitting in the bleachers. 

Sam Finley became the EDN sports editor in June 2011.  He welcomes your feedback.


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