Merritt Paulson/Paul Allen Mad Libs
With all due respect to the Fail Blazers and the Fightin’ Alaska Airlines, the contest isn’t even close.
There’s only one sports team that provides a distinctively Portland experience.
It’s a team that plays its sport in an unconventional way that’s been copied and mimicked across the country in a vain attempt to be hip. It wears outlandish, artisanal uniforms designed by a hometown business. It puts professional-grade cash into an amateur enthusiasm.
So what if it plays in Eugene? Portland’s top team is the Oregon Ducks football squad.
The Ducks own the entire state. Drive around this city and you’ll see three times as many window decals, magnetic signs and pennants featuring the school’s “O” logo as any RCTID sticker or red-and-black NBA team logo that looks like water going down a toilet.
The high-flying, nationally second-ranked Ducks (5-0) are averaging a phenomenal 59.2 points per game this season (while allowing a paltry 11.8 points by opponents) and a mere 20-odd seconds between plays. (The Timbers boast about their effective possession of the ball—a euphemism for playing keepaway for an hour and a half. Yawn.)
The Ducks have gone 51-7 over the past five seasons.
Meanwhile, the Blazers have a 159-153 record in that time and continue hyping their hopes for that elusive No. 8 playoff seed. If you like ties, the Timbers are good at those: With 14 draws this season, they lead Major League Soccer in sister-kissing.
The fans at the Rose Garden (sorry, Moda—whatever) too often sit on their hands. Timbers fans are certainly enthusiastic and can pride themselves on being one of the two MLS fan bases that bother to show up to games.
But it’s Autzen Stadium that has earned a well-deserved national reputation in a sport Americans actually care about.
From the opening moments, when the Duck rips out onto the field on the back of a Harley, to the end of the game, when the Duck is exhausted from doing a pushup for every Oregon point, a cacophonous tide of chants roars throughout the stadium.
The color-coordinated crowd (green, yellow, black, white, chrome, grellow, etc., to match the team’s uniform combo) pounds opponents with a blast of noise that’s like thunder hitting simultaneously with lightning.
You can feel it as the entire crowd gasps whenever De’Anthony Thomas touches the ball. You can see it when quarterback Marcus Mariota decides to run instead of pass, or when freshman Torrodney Prevot breaks into an overenthusiastic celebration following a deflected pass in a monsoon.
Haters can disparage the lavish gifts of Uncle Phil Knight, including the $68 million football performance center, and purists can bemoan the days when college athletes and coaches didn’t get the royal treatment, complete with their own castle.
But you know what money buys?
Thrills. Victory. Fun.
[All Rip City Vs. No Pity articles are collected here.]