I just arrived back home after a long flight from Dallas, TX. I've been replaying the weekend in my mind trying to get a perspective on what exactly went down and what it all means. The following is my experience and thoughts.
I flew in from Detroit on the second of September. I had one layover in Houston. I didn't see any purple or green on my first flight, but saw plenty of LSU fans once I got to Houston. I didn't see my first Duck fan until I landed in Dallas Love Field, and that was only one—and he was holding hands with an LSU woman. That was the first and last combination like that that I would see.
My friends also flew in, and we checked into our hotel in Arlington and went to trying to decide what to do in Dallas/Ft. Worth. We basically came up with these options: visit the Cotton Bowl, see where JFK was killed, go to Six Flags, or go to local bars and watch the Baylor/TCU game. We decided to see the Book Depository museum first.
Duck fans owned the place. I had heard that LSU would outnumber us 5 to 1. If I had to guess from the museum and grassy knoll, I would say that Oregon held a 20 to 1 lead. I thought that was really odd. I concluded that it was one or a combination of things. LSU is closer to Dallas so the fans wouldn't do as many touristy things. Louisiana is a conservative state so residents would be less likely to visit and honor a liberal figure in JFK. Thousands of LSU fans had RVs, so maybe the idea of driving an RV and parking it in downtown Dallas seemed too daunting. For whatever the reason, Oregon took over the grassy knoll. Maybe we would have a higher turnout than expected?
The Cotton Bowl was magical. The Cotton Bowl was abandoned. We were the only people there who weren't working security. One of the security guys took pity on us and unlocked the front gates for us so we could walk around and check out the field. Walking around the abandoned shrine and heart of southern football by myself was a real privilege and one of the highlights of my trip.The question came back to me—where are all of these LSU folks?
We ate dinner at the original Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse. We loved it, (although Slows in Detroit is better). We affectionately referred to it as rib school, as the ancient establishment's "tables" were more like school desks. Once again, though, all of the patrons were Oregon fans and a single LSU guy.
Want to know where LSU people were? Waffle House. We ate breakfast the next day at Waffle House and were the only ones wearing green in a sea of purple. So the tally—Oregon took over the Cotton Bowl, Book Depository museum, the most famous rib place, and LSU took over the local Waffle House.
On Gameday, LSU showed up. But Oregon still had the edge. ESPN College Gameday was pretty even, but I'd say Oregon had maybe 10% more fans attend. The commentators commented on that fact.
We got our parking space and set up our awning and keg and Ducks came from all around. We were right on the sidewalk, so anyone walking by our tailgating spot could holler whatever they wanted at us. For the entirety of the day, I must say that most of the back-and-forth between Oregon and LSU fans was pretty tame. I will also say this—I never once saw any Oregon fan start a fight or heckle anybody. Whatever mean things I saw Oregon fans say about being inbred and overrated I saw them say in defense of something equally nasty. Nasty is a bit strong though. Everything had a playful mood to it. The most feisty thing I saw was one Oregon fan who had a stuffed tiger inserted into his shorts head first. The most offensive thing I saw at an LSU tailgate was a giant confederate flag, only with purple and yellow instead of red and blue. I told them I thought their flag was offensive. They told me to F off.
LSU fans drink more. We repeatedly had drunken LSU fans come up to us and scream, "tiger bait!" We thought that was a lame thing to say, so many of us started yelling back, "duck sh**!" The highlight of the jawing came when one completely wasted LSU girl countered with, "We eat duck sh** all the time!", at which point she got made fun of and laughed at until she had to stagger off. LSU fans drink more.
We befriended some LSU people. We shared our beer, and they gave us alligator crawdad etouffee. It was really, REALLY good.
Gametime. We entered the massive stadium and our collective jaws dropped. Jerry world is an amazing place; three parts repulsive and one part beautiful.
We found our seats, looked out and shuddered. Our worst fears had come true. Being outnumbered 5 to 1 seemed like a pipe dream at that point. Not exaggerating, I would say we were outnumbered at least 12 to 1, maybe as high as 15 or 20 to 1. There were times I struggled to find a single green shirt. LSU had their home game. And they were loud. Autzen loud? I don't think so. But they were loud.
One thing that came to me throughout the game was this: Oregon has no traditions. LSU fans had their cheers going like a well oiled, coordinated machine. Some of them were lame (you bow to your defense, really?", some were quite cool. Oregon has our fight song. And we do the "OOOOOOH!" And we harass referees. Other than that we really are just a big zoo of noise. LSU felt like the older, prouder team. And I was left wishing Duck fans had more things to unite us. I think about this often when I go to Michigan Wolverine games and take relish in the entire stadium singing the "you suck" song when the opposing team fails to reach a first down. Where are Oregon's traditions? We're an old team and we need them. I'll think about this and get back to you with ideas.
Oregon lost. I won't give you my opinions on the game. LSU fans only chanted, "SEC! SEC! SEC!" once, and it was only for about 10 seconds. They also chanted, "Overrated! clap, clap, clap clap clap" for a while towards the end, which I thought was a bit unsportsmanlike, but hey—we sort of deserved it.
The walk of shame was terrible. It would never end. The ramp down to the main floor was so gradual you could have crab walked up it backwards. LSU people continued to do their chants and such. Most people ignored us. Some people yelled as if they rehearsed it before hand, "Sucks to be a Duck!" We didn't respond.
Many LSU people came up and told us they were forever Oregon fans after our (the fans) behavior and class. And that we played a good game. A lot of people said that actually. I thought it was a bit arrogant, but they were trying to be nice. LSU fans really were pretty gracious winners except for a few turds.
One man approached our tailgating spot after the game and said he wanted to shake my hand. He said he'd been going to LSU games across the country for 20 years, and he had never met a group of fans as knowledgeable about country-wide football as Oregon fans (I argued as much in a B/R article a while back). He said we were his favorite tailgaters he'd ever had a beer with. I told him about Oregon's reputation in our conference as the worst, most obnoxious fans. He said something that stuck with me, "Those aren't fans. Those people just hop on the bandwagon and look for an excuse to get drunk and blow off aggression. Every team has those folks, and none so, regrettably, more than the SEC and probably LSU in particular. But you guys are the real fans. We're the real fans. We love the game." That guy wasn't arrogant. I liked that guy. And he was right.
Those are my thoughts on the game. It was honestly the most depressing week I've ever experienced for the Pac-12, and a horrible day to be from the state of Oregon, but I'm still glad I went. It became clear to me early in the third, disastrous quarter that I wasn't really there for the game. Yes, I love the Ducks more than just about anything, but that just means that I was guaranteed to watch the game, period. I traveled half-way across the country to be with my best friend who I hadn't seen in three years, my wife, and my ex girlfriend turned awesome friend. We were there to make a statement: we love the Ducks. I guess we love each other more.
Until next time, I hope all of the Walmart, homophobic, drunken Oregon fans hop off the bandwagon. The fad is over. Root for the SEC. Only true Oregon football fans need apply.