The Big Game.

5:00 AM



I never even remotely cared about football before I met Randy.

  The Iowa Hawkeyes sort of peaked my interest for a while, like on the rare occasion that I got to go to a game, but mostly just because I wanted to fit in with my friends who DID care about college football.  Then of course I cared about football a tiny bit whenever there was a Super Bowl party because....well, party! Food! Commercials! You know.

   But than I got a little older and a little more mature, and I stopped caring so much about fitting in with the crowd and making people like me, and simultaneously stopped caring about football altogether.

Until of course, Randy.

   A purist of college football fans, if you will.  Being a "fair weather fan" and only rooting for the Ducks during their better seasons and recent years would have never even come close to entering his mind.  He would be just as fiercely loyal and devoted to the Ducks as he always has been, even if they were as bad as, say......the Beavers (couldn't resist).

   He can still remember games he listened to on the radio over 15 YEARS AGO.  He isn't one of those "front-and-center fans" if you will.  You won't find him shirtless at the 50 yard line, with a giant O plastered on his chest painted in yellow and green, waving signs that say "God bless Marcus Mariota" and shouting until he's hoarse.  But don't mistake his quiet devotion for anything less than, well...devotion.  The Ducks held a piece of his heart long before I ever did, and I have had a lot of catching up to do ever since.

   Let's just say that I realized fairly early on in our relationship that football was here to stay.  I knew I was the only TRUE love of his life, but the Oregon Ducks weren't going anywhere.  So I could have been like some women, viewing football as a rival for my time and attentions with him, and resenting the whole thing, or I could learn to love it too, and we could enjoy it together.

I chose the latter.

















 
   So first and foremost, I needed to learn about the game.  Sitting through a college football game in the rain and cold is difficult, even if you already like football.  But sitting through a football game in the rain and cold is TORTURE if you don't even know what's going on.  So I tried to learn and observe as best as I could, and Randy was benevolent and generous enough to explain the rest.

I still remember him in our dating days, squeezing my hand and leaning close to speak in my ear,
"See? They got the first down.  That means they have four more tries to get 10 more yards."
"Oh, I see!"  I would say, still not really understanding.

   It is only now, years later, that those moments are even more striking and romantic to me.  I am sure he would've liked nothing more than to just concentrate on the game and take it all in and cheer on his team.  But there he was, hunching over, shouting over the roar of the crowd trying to explain the concept of the game to a very perplexed girlfriend, play by play, and yard by yard.  He would constantly ask if I was cold, giving me his extra sweatshirt if I needed it or even running DURING the game to get me a coffee.

   I loved seeing that side of him.  That intense focus, that feeling that you were a part of something bigger than yourself, the sense of camaraderie with the people in the seats around us that he saw season after season.  I didn't love football yet, but I was starting to love him loving football.

   And little by little, the mystery that was football took shape in my mind.  It had rules and patterns and finally, was starting to all make some sense.  And when I finally understood it?  It was FUN to watch!  There was progress, defeat, success, failure, setbacks, highlights, and twists and turns you never saw coming.  No wonder he liked this stuff!

   On New Year's Day, the Oregon Ducks faced the Florida State Seminoles in the Rose Bowl for a chance to be in the championship game, and they dominated.  It was the stuff of fairytales, as I'd been following some of the media buzz around FSU's quarterback, Jameis Winston, and let's just say....he leaves a lot to be desired.  I won't go into detail, but if you google him, you can pretty quickly find a slew of allegations and accusations, and enough reading material to keep you busy for a while.

  But thankfully, the Ducks put Winston in his place, and I have to admit at least he had the decency to shake hands with Oregon after their big win, which is more than I can say for most of the other FSU players who chose to skulk off the field to their locker room instead.

But enough about the Seminoles.  Let's talk about Mariota.

    Marcus Mariota via

    Even if you know nothing else about Marcus Mariota, know this.....the worst accusation I have ever heard about him to this day, is that he's TOO NICE. (Read about it here)  I'm not kidding you.  An NFL scout was quoted saying, "Like if you punched him in the stomach, he might apologize to you. I just don't know if he's that alpha male that you're looking for. This kid's a kind of fly on the wall kind of guy."  Seriously?!  You call him a fly on the wall just because he's more kind, polite and respectful than probably any other college football player you've ever encountered??! You've just been scouting scum bags for so long you mistake courage for weakness.  Unbelievable.

   Marcus has a humility and honor and decency that is so apparent in his life, both on and off the field, people cannot help but notice it.  Read his character praised here, here, and here.  And don't even get me started on his Heisman acceptance speech.    He thanked everyone from former teachers to teammates to coaches and of course, his family, and it was filled with such true emotion it brought tears to my eyes.  

  And just for fun, one of my favorite little stories found on USA Today about Marcus......

Marcus Mariota's routine after most football practices last season at Oregon included a brisk walk to the locker room, a shower and a stop at the snack bar in the Ducks' training facility to grab a Clif bar and bottle of water.
Mariota's daily drive from the practice field to Oregon's academic campus is not a long one, crossing the Willamette River, cutting through a snarl of on-ramps, exits and merges and then turning east through a corridor of restaurants priced to fit a college student's wallet.
But before all of that, Mariota would train his eye on the left median of the first intersection of his journey, the corner of Martin Luther King Blvd. and Coburg Road. Then he would slow down, even if the light was green, roll down his window and hand the bar and the beverage to the person standing there with a sign asking for help.
"Every damn day," said former Oregon quarterback Dustin Haines, a frequent passenger on those commutes. "That was eye opening. But that's the way he is."
Read more over here

   And there are many more stories of his good character to be found.  This guy is the real deal, no doubt about it.  No, I haven't always loved football.  But by George, it's sure feels great to be a Duck fan today, and an even bigger Mariota fan.

So now it's your turn....who do you want to see win it all when Oregon faces Ohio State on Monday??


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9 comments

  1. I have to smile because this sounds so much like my story. I didn't have a clue about the football side of life, until I got married. He is a die hard Ohio State fan, just like Randy and the Ducks, quiet but always there. I learned a lot the same why you did, his patience and commentary and now I enjoy an occasional game with him. I don't think you have to ask who we are rooting for come Monday night. :)

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  2. Yes, this sounds similar to my story as well, though I'm pretty sure you have been more accepting of it than me.:) I did watch the Oregon/Florida and the Alabama/Ohio games with him and had just as much fun watching him as I did the games.:) He's most definitely an ohio state fan so I guess that says who we'll be cheering for.

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  3. I'd be proud to be a fan of such a team + player as Mariota...we've followed him a bit and he seems like a great player + human being. I grew up with football and was super glad to marry someone who was just as enthusiastic about the sport as I was. Bless you for embracing something your man loves that you don't quite as much!

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  4. I'm a Buckeye at heart, since I grew up in Ohio and my Dad is an OSU alumni. Even though I live in Michigan now (covers her head in shame), OSU will definitely be getting my support.

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  5. I would LOVE to see Oregon win this game, and we will be watching and cheering for Oregon even though we are Clemson fans, and I am a former Penn State Fan, I can honestly say I do not care one bit for Ohio State.. and I have found not all but a lot of their fans to be super cocky :( and that really just doesn't cut it for me, I just don't appreciate when people talk trash.

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  6. Yep, learned to like my husband's favorite hobby (which wasn't football)

    I went through a bunch of stages:
    - this is dumb
    - this is interesting
    - this is interesting but I don't want to be one of those girlfriends who turns into their boyfriends!
    - I'm going to learn all about this
    - I like this but I won't tell anyone
    - I like this

    Some might say I have "issues" :)

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  7. I am the same way with baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals with the Brokaw family. :) It really is fun to enjoy it and embrace it with them.

    Also, I knew nothing about the game tonight except this clip that Justin showed me (since he knows most of what I care about in the sports world is the human interest stuff). I bet you've seen it, but I had to send it anyway. Sounds like you're right on about Marcus Mariota. :)

    http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=12147539

    Justin is a non-fan of Ohio State, so we were rooting for your Ducks...

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  8. Well, I'm sorry your favorite team lost, but I'm not sorry Ohio won, I was rooting for them! ha.

    I went through school watching football, as a member of the marching band. Now, though, the hubs has gotten me into the NFL fan club ha and we are devoted Broncos fans and Razorback fans. None of our 6 boys could care less about football. I can't count how many times I've found myself sitting, watching football alone, while the other 7 males in the house are off doing something else. ha. Usually if Steven's not with me, it's because he's working. But we do love our football.

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  9. Well, I must say I didn't cheer for your Ducks on Monday night...I'm one of those that got married into the Buckeye nation :) I did think about you tho, and I must say that while I'm sorry your Ducks lost, it was great to have a Buckeye win :) I didn't really know football either before I met Kenton. I think I watched more football in 1 year of dating than I had the prior 22 years! Now I love the game and have even watched games by myself if he's not home :) -Sherri

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