If you play enough sports, watch enough games, and live long enough, one thing becomes apparent.
You finally understand things don’t always turn out the way you hope. You win some, lose some, and flip the nut-switch if it doesn’t go your way.
When this happens you find too many sports fans with crazy ideas. Most of the time they center on conspiracy theories.
Suggesting that the Oregon Duck football game against the Stanford Cardinal was fixed is one of those crazy ideas.
Before explaining how that could never happen, take a look at fixes in other sports.
Probably the greatest cheat of all time was the Chicago Black Sox scandal. Gamblers paid major league baseball players to throw the 1919 World Series.
Eight of the ball cheaters were banned for life.
Does it get any bigger than that?
Major League Baseball cancelled the 1994 World Series during a strike season. That stills feels like a fix. Even World War Two didn’t cancel the World Series.
Muhammad Ali fought the Mike Tyson of his day, an ex-con named Sonny Liston. Twice.
A mystery punch ended the second fight early. Did Liston take a dive? In later interviews he said he did. We can thank him for his honesty.
From ESPN: “Liston had ties to organized crime. In 1952, after serving two years in prison, he was paroled to a team of boxing handlers with ties to John Vitale, a St. Louis underworld figure. Six years later, Frankie Carbo and Blinky Palermo, top Mafia figures in the Northeast, became the majority owner of Liston’s contract. Carbo was later indicted on conspiracy, multiple counts of undercover management of prizefighters and unlicensed matchmaking. Liston fought 12 fights under their control.”
Lance Armstrong showed what it takes to win seven Tours de France: Cheat like a scientist and run over everyone who says you’re cheating. If he hadn’t come out of retirement for one last ride he’d still be golden. But he did come clean and apologize like a good boy.
And he did it on Oprah, so extra credit on that.
Some of the best college players from 1951 shaved points to help gamblers win an edge. Instead of a future in the early NBA and a plaque in the Hall of Fame, the players were banned for life.
These events, along with the performance enhancing drugs found in the NFL, international track and field, and the Barry Bonds-era of big heads, don’t help a sports fan when they see a team change dueing the biggest game of the year.
Who was the team that faced Stanford on a Thursday night? It was supposed to be the Oregon Ducks. Conspiracy guy says it wasn’t.
The real Oregon Duck receivers lay out for passes across the middle. They run up the middle and spin off contact. They find gaps to squeeze through that no one sees.
Against Stanford the receiver’s arms got shorter, tackles came earlier, gaps closed fast. Only in the most suspicious minds does that add up to fix.
Oregon fans are used to their spectacular offense. They see other college teams, even NFL teams, speed up the tempo between snaps and know why: Chip Kelly.
The delusional fan sees failure on the offensive side and jump to conclusions that don’t fit. They use the questionable calls during the Auburn national championship game as proof. They know the ball bounces the same for everyone, but somehow Oregon isn’t the same as everyone else.
These knee-jerk fans accept the stalled offense against Stanford, but shift focus on the defense. This was a game Oregon would silence the rest of the college football world with takeaways, forced fumbles, and scoring.
This was the game to prove to the Alabamas of the world that Oregon football was real, the main game to set up the BCS National Championship in the Rose Bowl. Wild Oregon fans could hear Keith Jackson’s voice saying, “Katy bar the door, it’ll be a barn burner in the Granddaddy of them all this year.”
Now they hear Vinny the Snide say, “Look it, every now and den a great college fooball team has an off night. The offense off, the defense off. Special teams off? Forgetaboutit. Off. It happens with a little help. Know what I mean?”
Not one Oregon fan should believe the off night. Or a story about two mega-rich guys flipping coins to decide which team wins or loses. If they hear how you only understand true power by killing the thing you love most, like the Ducks, walk away.
You can’t fix college games. If you tried, who would you hook up? All the players? All the coaches? The refs? That’s not the reason for the Oregon performance.
A sweetheart of a Duck named Marcus Mariota ends up on the Sports Illustrated cover the week before Stanford. Hopes are high, but he’s got a bad wheel. It hurts to run, hurts to throw, and he’s the key.
Fear creeps in, the sort of fear everyone else feels, except him. His game changes to adapt to the injury, but somewhere there’s a vision of Dennis Dixon and his folding knee.
Ask yourself if you would have suited up knowing you aren’t the same player. When one game depends on you, do you risk a bright future?
Mariota threw for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns against Stanford. The only fix with him was fixing his knee.
From here on out the college football season is over for watching other teams, of deciding how they fit into the Duck title game.
Now Duck fans can get back to doing what they do best: Focus on the Ducks and win the rest of the days.