Bubba Watson tapped in a one-foot putt to win his second green jacket, hugged his caddy, congratulated his opponent, scooped up his infant son at the edge of the green and kissed the boy’s cheek, near tears (Michael Madrid, USA Today Sports photo).
This is the most interesting part of sports: overcoming obstacles and achieving dreams. It’s why I watch, to see the stories unfold.
Similarly, a football team is an unfolding story. There are histories and legends, hopes, moments of brokenness, impossible achievements, heartbreak. The Oregon Ducks have given us so many great moments over the years, and come close to achieving the ultimate in their sport, their own version of the green jacket. Along the way athletes like Kenjon Barner and Marcus Mariota become a part of us, the pride of our football neighborhood, loved by all of us as sons, not only for their football ability but also their grace, maturity, and the dignity with which they compete.
I write about football from a fan perspective because it interests me and it touches on something we all feel great passion for. In the modern world it provides the emotive, spirit-filled ritual and community people once got in other forms.
I share and understand the passion, because college football is a beautiful and unique game. The dialogue that is just beginning about player rights and compensation is a great challenge, because it threatens the flavor and character of the game, and we don’t want a cherished institution to change too radically.
Something I don’t understand is ridicule and meanness. Occasionally I get an email or a comment that is overblown with authority and filled with hostility, usually over an opinion or a headline. About a game. There are so many worthy things to be outraged about: poverty, disease, racism, pollution, injustice. Why waste rage on a topic like whether Mark Helfrich is a good coach, or whether the Ducks run too many fade patterns at the goal line? I share and understand the passion. I just don’t understand how it boils over to viciousness and character assassination. Mark Helfrich is coach of the Ducks. He’s a man of character and intelligence. He’s still learning how to be a better coach. Few are as good as his predecessor.
The worst ones I usually delete, because this is a hobby. The years and the days are precious; I choose not to waste any on noxious toxicity. Yes, this is a sports blog. It’s an amateur production, without the resources and inside information available from other sources. The masculine world of sports somehow invites men to bluster and muscle for supremacy, to shoulder their way into petty disputes, trash talk, ridicule. We’ve never claimed to be anything other than what we are, yet I still get the occasional bully who wants to be derisive about it.
Watson’s victory in the Masters seemed free from all that. Overcome with emotion in winning a second Green Jacket, he fought for composure, slapping the hands of fans on the way to Butler Cabin. He won with poise and focus. Just the way we’d like the Ducks to do this fall. Along the way, we ought to display some of our own.