Monday, August 11, 2008

Nearer Draws the Joy of the Turf

Humble Beginning's

As I lay restless unable to shake off the dire-anticipation that plagues any attempt to find some well needed shuteye; adrenaline runs through my veins and stats through my brain. Sleep? A momentary deterrent to the wholeheartedly inevitable joy that awaits me on the crisp dawn of a late August day that has been beckoning me for some time now.

I turn to my right as my eyes fight the blur before making out the image of a bold green Gridiron master; the 2007 Oregon Football poster close enough to taste. My gaze slumps awkwardly as the eyelids fight to gain control; the signed copy of Duck's Illustrated catches my eye; a diamond in the rough in a room as utterly disorganized as mine.

The lack of sleep and the absence of mental rest I found myself moving aimlessly about on a beautiful Oregon summer afternoon. In full knowledge of what 5:00pm was bound to bring I attempted to pull myself together and flush the coma with coffee and red-bulls; the day was calling but I wasn't quite prepared to answer. Was it the rush of the feelings to soon flood my mind? Was it the giggling like a school girl about the potentiality of the upcoming season? Was it just striagh-no-nonsense anxiety pounding on the door and demanding in?

It was closer to four when I loaded my camera and anticipation up into the Burgundy Buick Beauty and headed out towards my destination; the five o'clock open scrimmage at Autzen Stadium. The duck shop, which is a shrine of Oregon Ducks memorabilia comparable to everything that is beautiful and gold put into a small store-front building; connected to the training turf for the world's greatest college football team ever assembled.

The winds died down and the clouds shot too and fro beyond the horizons; blue skies poured fourth and the heat came steadily along with it; the locker room door slammed open and out they came; one after the other, in a gorgeous concoction of green and yellow practice jerseys. As they jogged out onto the turf I snapped photos quicker then Nancy Kerrigan's kneecap; it was that quick. The scurry down the tunnel and into the broad and open glory of the interior of Autzen Stadium is both angelic and euphoric.

As I came out of the tunnel opening I heard footsteps behind me, a giant of sorts on my heels; I felt the eyes of a thousand lions watching my back; I turned to see the general himself, Head Coach Mike Bellotti strolling out onto the battlefield; the turf of Autzen.

His stroll was so casual yet intentional; the footsteps of a man on a mission. A mission of astronomic proportions; a NCAA National title run cut-short by tragedy tainted his pallet last year and the echo is still in his ears; the fans at Autzen have not forgotten how close we were; neither has our general.

The uprights of Autzen beam upwards towards the sky that seems to be falling on us this glorious heat-drenched afternoon. These uprights are bittersweet; sweet because they kept us alive, bitter because the last game played in this stadium was lost through them. The long and deep cyclical pain of losing to your rivals at home has plagued us Duck fans like locusts since last season; pain in immeasurable volumes; inability to forget and move on, for the season is coming and payback is going to be a pregnant-female-dogs for lack of better word.

As I made my way through the majestic-turf-meadow and to my seat to begin watching the practice I stopped alongside the uprights and was beckoned by a U of O football staff member named Larry. He asked a few nominal questions about my camera and we began chatting about the in's and out's of Duck football; debating whether or not we were going to rush for 300 or 400 yards a game with the dangerous duo of LaGarrette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson.

During my first endeavor into 2008 Ducks football photography I had the chance to capture some action images from LaGarrette and Jeremiah; they are even more powerful and talented in person. Blount has a brute nature about himself; friendly but deadly. Johnson is more stealthy and quicker; together they are a deadly combination in the backfield. You can be sure that whatever defense has to play against this duo will get a handful of Hell and a mouthful of turf-pellets.

It's obvious when you look at the Oregon Ducks offense for 08' that things have changed. No more Dennis Dixon. No more Jonathan Stewart. No more Camron Colvin. However, with the new season comes new talent. With the new season comes new weaponry. With the new season comes a tenacious mix of speed, brute force, and natural ability.

This year is destined to be a year of both up's and down's. However, all we can do is sit back and anticipate the greatness, expect perfection, and be delivered a season overflowing with great memories and even greater victories.

To be continued on Training Day Scrimmage #2...

(ps-Their are more photo's and blog info available at No photos of the actual Scrimmage were taken due to potential leaks of play-info to opposing teams, thanks for understanding)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Pigskin Goodness

When you look at this photo what do you see? Do you see a mere stadium? Do you just see some people standing around a bowl-shaped arena? -or- Do you see an beautiful mix of turf and stands amidst the sea of fans? Do you see the euphoric union of green and yellow? Do you feel the invigorating rush of the chants of 50,000+ screaming die-hard Oregon Duck's football enthusiasts? Well, this my friends is the primary differentiating factor between you and I.

I wake up in cold sweats. I jump out of bed and look around. I look for the nearest calender. Is it August 30th, 2008 yet? Is it opening game yet? Is it time yet to set up the tailgating gear with my Oregon Ducks partner in crime Cole and bust out the retro O tees and get the game spirit started?

For those of you reading this blog right now and thinking to yourself, "Its just a game..." it's for you that I write this blog. It's for you that when I get cut I bleed Green and Yellow. It's for you that when I see you dressing your 9-yr olds with OSU hats and UO t-shirts that I laugh at you and mock your children (not a normal occurrence, fyi). It's for you that I attempt vigorously through literary format to conjure up for you some sort of intelligible-internal understanding of what pride is?

Your mini-vans laden with rivaled-stickers brings tears of rage to my eyes. How is it, that even for a second, an individual can cheer for one team in a beautiful concoction of royal green and golden yellow and in the next moment cheer for the hellaciously-foul construction cone orange and tar black team? These my friends are the actions of schizophrenic drunk people; no one cheers both rivals, that is as bad as universal terrorism if you ask me; it's like using President John F. Kennedy's eternal flame to light your Native Spirit Menthol Cigarette; it's criminal, punishable by public humiliation and vehicle defacement.

If that's not evidence enough for those who 'fail' to understand the immensely vast hierarchy of the Oregon Ducks then perhaps this would be helpful evidence. Since 1975, Oregon has won 23 out of the 30 Civil War games played. So, for those of you Oregon State fans that aren't any good at math, that means OSU has only won a combined 7 out of 30; that' s something to be proud of; not.

So, when looking forward in dire-anticipation to the glory bound season ahead of us as Oregon Ducks fans we must not fail to see the true goal here. It's bigger than winning games. It's bigger than laughing at rival fans when we destroy them on their home turf. It's bigger than screaming like schoolgirls when we here the words, "Huard back to throw....interception...Kenny Wheaton's gonna score....Kenny Wheaton's gonna score....Kenny Wheaton's gonna score!!!". It's more important that coming back at the half so Bellotti isn't pissed because 1/3 of the fans are drunk in the parking lot and not in the stands where at least they could be cheering. It's more essential than frequenting the duck-shop more often than catholic mass. This season is all about rebuilding the dynasty. It's all about reignitng the flames under the wings of our ducks and watching them yet again, soar "under the radar....undetected and unappreciated" It's all about making sure our Ducks stay Ducks, and our Duck's fans get to see yet another glimpse of the woven tapestry of awesomeness we know of as Oregon Ducks Football.