The desolation of smug: to seize a championship ring, optimism is the winning habit

One of my Facebook friends, SuzyQClark, had a great observation the other day:

When we’re born, we know nothing about negativity or pessimism. Both are taught to us over time but it doesn’t take long before we absorb both for the remainder of our lives. Sometimes, we decide to assess, layer upon layer, some of what we’ve been taught or convinced ourselves of. What you decide to let go of is worth letting go of. Remember though, that nature has a way of replacing what gets released.

Pessimism and negativity are poisons. They are the carbon monoxide of the soul, choking out hope, faith, belief and enthusiasm. For a sports fan, listening to the sportswriters, pundits and commentators is like parking too long in a garage with the engine running. 

Smart and sassy: Suzy Q. Clark brings style and panache to mowing the lawn, and she has something important to say about choosing belief and enthusiasm over the same old lazy negativity.


When the Ducks lost a couple of games this year the critics were quick to pounce on the familiar and easy narrative. “Oregon chokes.” “Oregon can’t handle a big game or a physical opponent.” “Oregon is soft.” “This loss will set this program back for years.”

Here a few facts from the weekly press release at

Oregon has reached the 10-win plateau for the sixth straight season, tied for the seventh-longest such streak in college football’s modern history.

UO will be playing in its 21st bowl in 25 years. Only Florida State (25), Florida (23), Ohio State (23), Nebraska (23) and Michigan (22) have more invites in the last quarter century.

The Ducks need 444 yards to set a new school record for total offense in a season. UO had 7,319 yards in 2011, which came in a 14-game season.

Columnists and opponents love to dog the Ducks, but to do so, they often have to ignore or downplay some wonderful accomplishments. The Oregon football story for the last ten years has been one of heart and overcoming. In 2008 the team won 10 games and beat Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl with a fifth-string quarterback. In 2009 they made a Rose Bowl with a first-year coach. In 2010 they lost their starting quarterback, and a redshirt sophomore took them to the national title game with a perfect regular season.

In two years, Marcus Mariota has thrown 62 touchdown passes and rushed for 1334 yards and 14 tds. And now he is coming back. Monday is a preview of 2014. Fans will not only get to see a great ball game in an energized atmosphere, they’ll get a preview of how dynamic the Oregon offense can be again with a healthy Mariota at quarterback.

UO sold out their allotment of 9,500 seats for the Alamo Bowl, and buoyed by the presence of a popular local team in the Longhorns, bowl organizers expect a capacity crowd and an attendance record for Mack Brown’s last game. The Alamodome seats 65,000, and the stadium will be a sea of burnt orange and white pom poms by game time. 48,000 or so will rise to sing “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You” and give the “Hook ‘em” sign at kickoff.

The Ducks have the challenge of meeting an amped-up opponent with a huge motivational boost before a huge, passionate crowd, and that also is great training for next year. This isn’t a BCS bowl, but it will be one of the best atmospheres of the bowl season. Texas has a lot of talent and poses some matchup challenges in this game. Today in his column my friend Charles Fischer of breaks down the game with a retired coach from Houston named Lee Staley. It’s a great read on the key matchups. Here is an excerpt:

“Texas has won games by power running with a little play-action passing to keep the lead, and letting their defensive line overwhelm opponents.  Oregon does not match up well with Texas in that regard, with our inside running game woes, and our inability to stop an opponent’s running game.  The Longhorns are suspect in stopping a good passing attack along with a running QB, thus if Oregon can get a lead — it changes the game dramatically.”

The Ducks, Charles writes, have to come up with an answer for the Texas power running game, and the disruptive tandem of athletic defensive ends, Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed.

It’s been a challenging year for Oregon, and Oregon fans. The season didn’t turn out the way we hoped it would back in August. There were some stumbles, and a couple of sad disciplinary incidents. A key injury took the heart out of the offense, and the explosiveness went out of the attack for a couple of games.

Some people succumb to the tempation to be smug, and write off this group as “the same old Ducks.” That’s nonsense. On Monday the Oregon players get a chance to start a new chapter of a wonderful story. In June, they’ll be joined by the best recruiting class in school history, a group of outstanding athletes with the collective heart of greatness.

Don’t forget to keep your lawn mowed, and don’t stop believing. Smugness is a desolation. Belief gives energy and life.

Here is the motivational video from the Civil War, the last game this team played, won in the last 29 seconds with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to Josh Huff, Huff’s third td catch of the game in an inspired, courageous performance: