In my small northwestern town, which is home to the University of Oregon, the main attraction at this time of year is our football team, the Ducks. In fact, when I travel it is the one thing that helps most people recognize where I live. Our mascot is Donald Duck, and a bunch of boys made a mint last year cranking out a rap video and printing shirts that shout, “I love my Ducks.”
Although raising two sons has been enough for me to understand the mechanics of the game and share their weekly enthusiasm on national rankings, I don’t go to the main events. In fact in over a decade here, I can count on one hand the number of games I have attended and still have enough fingers to snap. Today I spent my day as a volunteer usher at the big match-up that garnered national television coverage. I got a whole new view of the game experience as I helped hundreds of people find their seats and felt part of a huge tribe as I got a full view of the stadium, filled to the brim with thousands in yellow and green.
Football is a religion in many places in this country and college games, especially if you have kids in that age range offer all of us a glimpse of rooting for the home team. These are still kids playing and the combined youthful energy and enthusiasm has something pure and powerful in it. Many people, who hadn’t attended the university in 40 plus years, still count the Ducks as their team and track home game dates, as though they were still in school.
Our Ducks are a second half team. I am not sure if they like the drama of coming back week after week from a 20-point deficit, or if it just takes them time to find their stride. I have long wished to be a fly on the wall and hear what happens at the half time locker room conversation, because it is pure inspiration. They come back, week after week, having found themselves and remind the rest of us that comebacks are vehicles of faith.
What is most lovable about some of our most well known players is their persistence. They are like Energizer bunnies that never say die. They just come back continuously looking for the hole, finding the pass, and driving their way into packs of muscle and pads. They are fearless and, watching them, we get a taste of that raw courage and huge heart to never give up.
While I have long objected to the fierce hitting and hurting that characterizes the modern sacrifice games we cherish as a culture, moments like today in the midst of thousands of fans, I got how loving our modern gladiators has always offered the universal lesson of staying in the game.