Column: Chip's gone, but let's hold off on the celebrating
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 17, 2013 18:01
I want to pose a question to the student body at Oregon State: Is there a fan base in all of sports that is as envious of one team as much as OSU is of the Ducks?
The Civil War isn’t the biggest rivalry. It isn’t. It will never compete with Auburn-Alabama, Duke-North Carolina, or Ohio State-Michigan.
But, when it comes to one group of fans detesting another, can you argue with how much hate Oregon State shows toward the Ducks?
Some OSU students even enjoy rooting against Oregon more than they like rooting for their own team.
And I’m not talking about an inherent hatred Beaver fans are born with. It was a rivalry before, but it’s been different since the Ducks took the leap from being perpetually above average to being one of the best college football teams of the last five years.
One man is responsible for that leap: Chip Kelly.
An OSU fan, pre-Kelly, would root against the Ducks because of the rivalry, but it went no further. Now, that same fan is overjoyed when the Ducks lose and distraught when they win a big game.
The jealousy Beaver fans plainly show does have to do with Oregon’s success, but that jealousy turned into hatred because of Kelly. His sour personality, condescension and masterminding of a college football powerhouse all contributed to the rise of those in orange and black detesting those in green and yellow.
Maybe former Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris was right when he coined OSU as the “little brother” in the rivalry. More right than I ever thought.
What does the little brother do? The little brother tries to emulate the big brother, hero-worships him. And whenever it comes to anything competitive, the big brother always wins, and the little brother throws a tantrum.
The little brother-big brother analogy would have been scoffed at throughout the history of this rivalry. For the entire 20th century, OSU and Oregon were doormats. In 2000 and 2001, both teams came out of nowhere to become contenders in the Pac-10, and both went to a BCS bowl.
The one blip in the simultaneous paths Oregon and Oregon State have taken has been Kelly.
Once he arrived in Eugene, Oregon took off and OSU was stagnant.
If I were to ask an OSU student what his or her favorite moments in college sports have been as a student here, I guarantee Oregon losing to Stanford, USC or Auburn would make the cut.
I talked to my good friend, who is a lifelong Duck fan and student at U of O, and he brought up a good point: he would never share that same animosity toward the Beavers because of Mike Riley.
“Riley is a nice guy, and Chip is a [expletive],” he said. The common bond between Beaver fans was the hostility toward the dictator running the evil empire. There’s no one like Chip. He’s an enigma, and is the most polarizing sports figure to ever come through the state of Oregon.
And what if Mark Helfrich, Kelly’s likely replacement, is a nice guy? I’ve always maintained if Kelly were to leave, rooting against the Ducks would never be the same for Oregon State fans.
That reality is over.
But hey, big bad Chip is gone now, and at least the Beavers can finally catch up to their counterparts down south, right?
The collective theme from the social media reaction yesterday (I was going to count how many Facebook posts and tweets there were about Kelly, but gave up at 50) is Oregon will be worse. Well, the notion that the Ducks only went as Chip Kelly went is flat-out wrong.
Bill Walsh may be the greatest football coach ever. He retired in 1988. In 1989, the San Francisco 49ers won the Super Bowl. They won again in 1994.
Yes, Kelly made the Ducks what they are now. But if Kelly is Dr. Frankenstein, the Oregon football team is his monster. Except, unlike that story, the monster isn’t going to die because its master did.
So now Oregon State fans are faced with an Oregon team that’s still uber-talented, has a top-10 recruiting class, and a new head coach who — no matter what — will be 10 times more likeable than Kelly.
Isn’t that worse?
As the years go on and Kelly fades from memory, the dislike of the Ducks will too.
Oregon State fans rejoiced yesterday. People at Western Wednesday were probably chugging PBRs as a celebratory gesture to his departure.
But come September, the days of being able to unequivocally root against the Ducks because Kelly was a jerk (there are harsher, more accurate words to describe what I think about him) are over.
Wednesday, Jan. 16 will go down as a memorable day, when Oregon lost its prize jewel and OSU reveled in it.
The truth? The Beavers need to win a Civil War before the celebration can begin.
Warner Strausbaugh, sports editor