Ducks fans can learn from SEC die-hards
As the last seconds ticked away on another embarrassingly high-profile Ducks loss, I heard the chant start somewhere behind me.
“S-E-C! S-E-C!” It cascaded down from the nosebleeds, washing over the tiny section of Ducks fans and onto the field.
It’s a testament to the stereotype of the cocky and smug SEC fan spoiled with victories — the one who honestly doesn’t believe any of the nation’s other college football conferences can run with them on the field. It’s elitist and frustrating, and right now in college football, it’s absolutely true.
The Southeastern Conference has won the last five college football titles, and outside of Oregon’s agonizing loss to Auburn last year, none of those games have been closer than ten points. They’re 7-0 in the BCS National Championship Game, and the SEC was home to three of the last four Heisman winners.
The fans know all of this, of course.
“Apologies, my friend, but we’re not too scared of a little spread offense,” long-time LSU fan Glenn Kirby told me before Oregon’s Sept. 3 match-up with 4th-ranked Louisiana State University. “Best of luck though. I hope it’s a close game.”
Naturally, I paid no attention at the time. Oregon’s offense led the nation last year. Even if there were some cupcake games in our schedule, no one could call what we did with the ball “little.” After the game, however, there wasn’t a lot of evidence to back me up.
It wasn’t the only lesson Kirby taught me.
“We root for each other every single week,” Kirby said. “Except Auburn. Never Auburn. If you ever see me wearing a turban, it means Auburn is playing Iraq.”
“Yeah, all of those SEC teams are our rivals, but as long as SEC teams are winning, I’m happy,” said fellow Tiger fan Marquis Allen.
A lot of Pac-12 fans see it differently. I’d be hard-pressed to root for any other team in our conference unless a win would benefit the Ducks. I’ll admit that seeing Washington or UCLA play well isn’t very high on my list of desires. It’s a popular mind-set, but if unchecked, has been known to lead to immature acts of misguided passion.
Almost all of the SEC fans I met were unfailingly polite, too.
I was everybody’s “buddy” or “pal,” and my mom was “ma’am.” Even the long walk out of the stadium in our Oregon jerseys, surrounded by jubilant (and drunk) LSU fans, was uneventful. Allen chalks it up to Southern hospitality.
“It’s just a game down here,” Allen said with a straight face. “Don’t get me wrong, we love football, but why fight about it? (There are) a lot more important things in this world.” As the game ended, we passed by Allen’s tailgate, and I asked him when he was going home.
“We’re going to hit the road tonight. We’ve got church in the morning.”
“This is supposed to be a neutral site, but let’s be honest,” Kirby said, sweeping his arms across the rows of LSU tailgaters. “We’ve taken this place over. I just hope everyone’s nice to y’all.” And so it was that LSU fans became the gracious hosts in Texas.
Look, I know Oregon football doesn’t exactly have a long, storied history of success. We’re still fairly new to this “winning” thing, and we still have a long way to go before seeing Eugene, Ore. on a schedule will strike fear into any SEC fan. But we can learn from these SEC fans, and acting like we’ve played in big games before is the first step to having that Southern swagger.
Whether it was because of the cops posted around the perimeter or because (and this one hurts my pride more) this was just a routine game for LSU, no fans lined up to rush the field. Instead, they chanted, made friends, enjoyed the blowout and were home in time for church — with their team undefeated.
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