Last night was the season opening game for the UO Ducks - my alma mater and hand's down favorite sports team. I've been waiting for the season opening game all week and made sure I was prepared for it. I wore my duck gear to work, grilled brauts, and moved my schedule around so nothing would interfere with kickoff (I even turned my cell phone off!)
Last night I saw something I never expected to see on game day. It wasn't that we were shut out in the first half. It wasn't that we lost the game. It wasn't even Blount's post-game explosion. What I never expected to see was this quote, on message boards, Facebook, and Twitter:
I'm ashamed to be a Duck
We lost the game. OK. We've lost before (and by larger margins), so this is something we can handle. That so many people would respond this way to Blount's behavior is, frankly, sad.
As I posted this morning on Facebook, "One man does not represent an entire school." The U of O has a long history (more than 130 years) of strong academics, healthy civic involvement, and powerful athletics. To write that all off because of one person's behavior is to say to all those who came before us that their triumphs and accomplishments are meaningless. That all of the time, effort, and money we've faithfully invested in our school are for naught.
The University of Oregon has a strong, tempered brand. Our students are politically active, our athletes are formidable opponents, and our alumni are some of the leading faces in government and business in the world today. Our brand cannot and should not be summed up by 10 seconds of post football game activity.
When your brand comes under attack either internally or externally, you need to cling closer to it. Every action you take to defend yourself should be on-brand. In Blount's case, a suspension would be appropriate - but we should not abandon or disown him. Likewise we need to temper our responses to the public backlash many Ducks have been receiving from other teams.
It's easy to lose your cool. But it's not productive.
Last night saw a frustrating display of our offense on the field and a repulsive display of our emotional composure off the field. But one night can't undo 130+ years of history and tradition. The Ducks can still be great, but only if we stick together, remember where we came from, and respect all of the successes and failures that have brought us to where we are today. This is not the time for shame, it's an opportunity to show real strength in the face of adversity.
Last night was hard. Today will be harder. But tomorrow I will still be proud to be a Duck.
Update (9/4/09 9:13PM)
I learned this afternoon that LeGarrette Blount has been suspended for the remainder of the season. He will still practice with and support the team, but he will not be allowed to play in a game for the rest of the year. I agree with the coaches decision; this was the right call to make, both from a team position and a U of O brand position.