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Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I Love My Thugs

It's becoming increasingly difficult to root for the football team of my alma mater. Over the years, the NCAA press has been clogged with tales of University of Oregon players running a-duck (pffffft!) through Eugene like pillaging buccaneers. Millions of dollars were recently dumped into an "athlete's only" center clogged with expensive art and leather couches while many other campus facilities and classrooms continue to rot. Meanwhile, Nike-founder Phil Knight continues to dump his personal fortune into constructing stadiums and plush locker rooms. Rooting for the Oregon Ducks is like rooting for the Empire in Star Wars, especially now that they're (maybe? kinda?) the # 1-ranked NCAA squadron in the nation.

But the worst part of all of this? It's now more expensive to go to a flippin' college football game in Eugene than an NBA game in Portland. Tickets, which start at around $40 for nosebleed seats, routinely sell-out during the summer months, weeks before the first game of the season, and soon thereafter sell for upwards of $100 on various scalper websites.

Oh, wait, I just though of something more irritating than high ticket prices: this crap....

How much did the Athletic Department pay for that, exactly? If you can make it through all four minutes of this video and not become a life-long Portland Vikings fan, you're a better person than I. Also: take note of the Nike plug at the two minute mark. The days of rolling into Autzen Stadium with a $10 ticket or a free one from the box office at the EMU seems like a long, long time ago.

I spent a day down in Eugene last spring with my friends Sho, Chris and Chris' rather-awesome, obscenity-spewing exchange student pal who...dang, I can't remember her name. Anyway, we ate some tatter tots at Rennie's Landing and the waiter there was wearing a "I Love My Thugs" t-shirt, which we all though was rather awesome at the time. Check the Facebook page for that one.

Despite all the glitz and the pampered players and the irritating "home made" hip-hop, there's one thing that keeps bringing me back to the fold:

The Oregon Duck, AKA the "Hardest Working Mascot in the NCAA." He still does a push-up for every point the team scores during home games. I recently learned that the duck doesn't even have an official name. He usually goes by the Oregon Duck but has also been called Donald, Puddles or The Fighting Duck, according to Wikipeida.

What say you? Doesn't this adorable bastard deserve a proper nom de guerre?

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I'm flattered that you refer to our video as "homemade" when in fact it's just homemade (no quotes). Not looking amateur is what I've been striving for, and I guess I'm finally there. And we weren't paid a dime by anybody to make the video, the only revenue we get is some royalties from those t-shirts. We did the video on our own initiative because we really do feel strong enthusiasm for our school's team. Just sayin'.
I'll have to take your word for it, Brian. Regardless, you guys were obviously given complete, unrestricted access to Autzen and you're the darlings of the Athletic Program these days. If your Twitter feed is to be believed, you've got Coach Chip on speed dial on y'alls "celly."

You've got skills at editing and polish, I'll give you that. Now how you about you use them for a more worthwhile cause than praising a team full of pampered NCAA brats with cushy locker rooms and "players only" clubs?

Oh, and the animal abuse at the end of the video, when you three chase around real ducks and pelt them with bird seed? WTF were you thinking? You love ducks so much you go around terrorizing them for a cheap gag? Sorry to go spouting off like PETA but just sayin'...


More also: if you're all still at U of O next year, could you at least go with a country ballad or some acid jazz for the inevitable "The Quack Strikes Back," if only to catch everybody off guard?
Guess I can cross "defending Supwitchugirl" off my assignment list. Sure, I found it the "I smell roses" intro to last year's video a bit presumptuous, but I sure wish someone was making videos about the Ducks when we were at school. And those shirts are everywhere -- who says Oregon lacks industry?

Meanwhile, how are the Ducks "maybe? kinda?" #1 in the NCAA? AP and coaches' polls agree that we are, this week, and we're #2 in the BCS. I don't know how long we'll hold on, but let's at least not let the moment pass us by.

You are also not the first to compare the current team to the Galactic Empire this guy at the San Jose Mercury News beat you by a few weeks.

FWIW, the Athletic Department calls the 2010-era mascot The Duck. As detailed elsewhere, the UO and Disney agreed that the mascot no longer refers to Donald (perhaps because of the 2007 incident with the Houston Cougar) which is a curious distinction, but whatever. If the UO is still putting Donald on merchandise in 10 years, I will be surprised.

If you're still having a hard time finding something else to cheer regarding your alma mater's nationally-recognized football program, I recommend Googling "Chip Kelly's offense" to find out more about how it is, exactly, that our team manages to put 50 points on ranked opponents from time to time. It's a good story. Best not to put too much stock in Easterbrook's version, though.
This whole post is quite odd, but I'm particularly mystified by the complaints about ticket prices relative to Blazers games:

- The Blazers are a mediocre team with 41 home games at an arena which seats 20,630. That's 845,830 tickets each year.

- The Ducks are a very good team playing the most popular sport in the country. They have 6 home games at a stadium seating 54,000. That's 324,000 tickets each year.

Why are you outraged that it costs more to see a higher demand event with fewer available tickets? Isn't that logical?

"The days of rolling into Autzen Stadium with a $10 ticket or a free one from the box office at the EMU seems like a long, long time ago."

It feels like a long, long time ago because the "free" tickets are only for current students. They're paid for through the mandatory incidental fee. Indeed, the fact that students who don't attend athletic events nevertheless must help pay for everyone else's tickets would've been a far more deserving target of your scorn.
WWB: I'll admit that I'm baffled by the (admittedly strange and perplexing, I think we can all agree on this) ranking system. Does 2 for 3 mean you're # 1 in the nation or what? For what it's worth, I was comparing the Ducks to the Empire as far back as the Autzen revamp, which makes the stadium look like the Death Star. Also: I'm sure these amazing wins have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with "Uncle Phil's" deep pockets and all the comfy facilities the U of O offers its top-notch players (while they could give less than a damn about the rest of their students).

Ian: My contempt for student fees goes all the way back to my freshman year at U of O, don't worry about that. I'll be dropping another few hundred bucks on fees next term because I need four more credits to finish my post-bach. Worse yet, it's likely that I'll be doing a research project to fill this final gap and won't even set foot on campus between January and March.

It's the level of play that aggravates me more than anything about the price of tickets. We're talking about students here, not professional athletes. You can cry "free market" and "supply vs. demand" all you want but charging that much, face value, for an NCAA game is a total rip-off. These tickets should run $25, tops. The AD doesn't need any more $. It's already rolling in it.

I think this post is fairly straight-forward. I'm an alumni of the U of O who's frustrated by an athletic program that has grown out of control and too powerful. It's hard to root for the NCAA-equivalent of the Yankees. As dumb as it sounds, it's the Ducks' cute mascot that keeps me coming back.
Ian: One more thing, to clarify. In the late '90s it was possible to get into a Ducks game for fairly cheap. $10 - $20. As recently as a few years ago, even during seasons when the Ducks were dominating the Pac-10, it was amazingly easy to wander down the pathway to Auzten and snag a good ticket for $40 from a scalper. If I were to try this on, say, Thursday night, I wouldn't be able to get inside for under $120. That's absurd and I can't quite wrap my head around this staggering inflation in the value of tickets. The Ducks have been a routinely winning team since the Harrington-era, no?
The Yankees have won 27 World Series titles and have a payroll nearly double most other teams. Meanwhile, the Ducks have never won a college football championship and are not even in the top twenty most "valuable" college football programs in the country. They've won the Pac-10 8 times in 95 years and once in the past 8 years.

Make no mistake, this level of college football is amateur only in the employment terms for the players. It's a business, plain and simple, for better and - most of the time - for worse.

I do disagree that the tickets are a rip off. There isn't a bad seat in the stadium and if it were an NFL game you'd be paying $75 for an obstructed view ticket to see something a lot less exciting. Autzen's one of only a handful of stadiums where the live game experience is outrageously good and unquestionably better than just watching at home with a cheap beer and a perfect view of the game on TV. The same can't be said for nearly any other NFL or NCAA stadium outside of the SEC.

Even if they wanted to, there really isn't a good way to keep actual prices cheap since if they lowered the face value tickets would just be re-sold by scalpers/craigslisters/etc. with a substantial markup. The plain truth is that the program's just a lot more popular than it was even three or four years ago and that's reflected in the going prices. Funnily enough, I think The Duck's popularity actually has a great deal to do with that - they've been promoting the hell out of him/her this year since the Disney deal.

If you're looking for an alternative, you actually should consider Portland Vikings games. I haven't been to one of theirs, but mid-tier college basketball and football games are oftentimes quite fun (and inexpensive) in person.
I see where you're going, but that's the nature of sports. Feast or famine. You have to decide which you care more about--winning and being Top 5/10/25 or having a team that wins conference games that you can get into for a few bucks. Who gives a crap if Nike is footing the bill? Do you think any team in college sports wins football games by treating their other students as well as the players?

As far as I'm concerned, the Ducks are the most entertaining sport going in Oregon. I'm from Texas, but I live in Portland, and pull for UO whenever I can. Blazers are great, but I can count on UO getting TDs. All due respect, you can keep your righteous indignation, we'll take the wins.
Ian: I think you're off-based on several points here:

1. I wasn't comparing the Ducks to the Yankees in terms of championships, merely that they're two organizations that have a seemingly endless supply of $ to drop on courting the nation's top talent and building fancy facilities. I don't have the stats in front of me but it's obvious that the Athletic Department in Eugene has a lot more $ to play with than their counterparts in Tempe, Corvallis and especially Pullman.

2. The Athletic Program is *not* a "business" so long as it continues to rake in public fees. It's becoming increasingly obvious that it doesn't need $ from the university system or taxpayers.
Here's a lovely little chestnut for you from an Oregonian article a few days back....

"The general fund has paid nearly $8.5 million over the past nine years for academic support for athletes, which includes exclusive tutoring and counseling, increasing sixfold from less than $300,000 in 2002-03 to a budgeted $1.8 million this academic year.

Meanwhile tuition has nearly doubled and state support has plummeted to 7 percent of the university's overall budget. Use of the general fund to academically support athletes means that other students essentially are subsidizing those services. The squeeze has come as athletics spending has skyrocketed, up 65 percent in the past four years alone, fueled by ticket sales and related donations."

Here's the rest of the article:


3. Scalping is going to happen regardless of the price on the tickets. Home games have routinely sold-out within a few weeks of tickets going on sale during the summer months. I suppose it's debatable whether the mark-up is better used to add another Xbox 360 to the players' locker room or in the pockets of scalpers. Since scalpers might have kids to feed, I guess I'd rather see them wind up with it. That's right, I'm rooting for the scalpers on this one.

4. When was the last foot time you set foot in Autzen? I went to a game last November and it was fairly miserable experience. The seats are tiny, especially for the average middle-aged football fan dressed in a gigantic Columbia Sportswear jacket. The plus-sized guy next to me took up half of my seat. There's little foot room so people are constantly tripping over you as they try to make it to the aisles. The infamous volume level of the crowd has reached a peak where it's actually painful to endure as a spectator, even more so than the rock-hard bleachers. Worse yet, the Ducks' marching band still plays "School's Out for Summer" every ten seconds. Dear God, why that song?!!!"Outrageously good"? You must be joking.

Jacob: Nike's an organization with a terrible record when it comes to human rights violations. As recently as 2008, it was in trouble for forced labor and squalid conditions at an apparel factory in China. You may not mind that your weekend's entertainment is subsidized by near slaves overseas but, for some of us, it nags at our morals. But so long as Darron Thomas is well taken care of and throws for 200+ yards tonight against UCLA, it's all good, right?

"Blazers are great, but I can count on UO getting TDs." And when they stop getting TDs and hit a slump, will you still be watching every game?
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