The Pirate Duck (Or How To Lay Down Old Grudges For A Better Future)

mark helfrich

Every generation creates something permanent.

If they don't get it done, they want credit for the work done before them.

Did every Egyptian make the pyramids?

Did every Greek or Roman build Athens or Rome? No, but you'd never know from listening.

Cradle of democracy? Empire of the ages? Please.

Sports fans know better.

Sports show the truth.

From each new season, the beginning of a new game, to new players on your favorite teams, nothing is permanent.

It just seems that way.

To show the temporary nature of achievement, look at these examples:

  • POLITICS

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected four times. He probably seemed like the King of America to kids in the 1930's and 40's.

He was a permanent fixture in Washington, the longest serving elected President, until he died in office.

On the short end, William Henry Harrison was elected to a four year term in 1841 and died thirty one days in.

No one saw that coming.

  • PETS

If a dog bites you when you're young, you might not like dogs.

Then you get married, have kids, and they all want a dog.

Suddenly, you love dogs even if they don't show the love back and still snap.

  • FOOD

One vegetable irks you more than any other.

The green bell pepper looks wrong, smells wrong, and tastes so wrong you think it's poison.

You spend your youth avoiding green peppers and anything with a pepper on it.

Pizza and peppers? No thanks.

Spanish rice with peppers? That's a three hour dinner with your folks explaining you should eat if you want to go to bed any time soon.

Then one day you eat some Italian food with a special ingredient you can't put your finger on.

You take a closer look and it's PEPPERS. Instead of falling down dead, you call everyone you know with the good news.

You've finally grown up, and it's about time.

  • FOOTBALL

Every small town athlete, or big city stud, has a rival. The team has a rival.

If you're on the wrong side of the win/loss column, you grow to dislike the rival. The word hate has their emblem in your mind.

Growing up on the southwest Oregon coast in North Bend once meant getting crushed by the Marshfield Pirates several times a year.

Even the coaches knew the rivalry has gone too far when they started the football season with this pep-talk:

"We've got a tough schedule this year. For those of you who've grown up here playing against Coos Bay, you know what to expect. But there are still other teams we will play with a chance of winning."

Two winless seasons of varsity football, along with a 54-0 waxing by the Pirates along the way, proved them right.

It's the sort of thing that leaves a mark to along with odd habits.

With that background, maturing to adulthood meant rooting for the underdog in every game. The lovable losers, no matter the sport, were automatically your team.

The Oregon Ducks were a perfect match. Sure, they played D-1 football against PAC 8 powers, but they didn't win often.

The Ducks became the best example of Get Over It when the PAC 8 expanded to PAC 10, then PAC 12, and the Ducks went on a flight of fantasy. They went from scrub program to great, to greatest in the history of the school, in a few short years with Coach Chip Kelly.

The Oregon band wagon overflowed with new supporters and fans saying they always believed in the Ducks. We never lost faith, they say, even when there was nothing but sad seasons with a few highlight players to cheer for.

Success welcomes everyone, failure isn't so friendly. Winning teams make everyone feel like a winner. Losing teams make you question your values for sticking around.

In one tsunami of relief the Oregon Ducks have vanquished doubt along with personal bitterness toward the Marshfield Pirates for every North Bend High School Bulldog who walked the Pirate plank to defeat.

What happened?

The superior minds running the University of Oregon Athletic Department just hired former Marshfield quarterback Mark Helfrich as their new head coach. The thrill of cheering for Duck wins over Washington, USC, Wisconsin, and Kansas State doesn't balance with spite toward Coos Bay. To accept one means accepting former Pirate Helfrich in charge.

Grown men and women need to release decades of stored bile or risk jinxing the Ducks' future. It's not easy.

The Pirates won the last game you played against them and they still toilet papered the stadium? Let it go.

The Pirates blasted the Bulldogs and they still egged the parking lot? Turn the page.

In your mind the Sate of Oregon southern border is the same as the North Bend city limits before Coos Bay? Open up to a new day.

For example:

Duck coach Rich Brooks was a former OSU Beaver. He played in Civil War games for the other side. It took him thirteen years before an eight win season got the Ducks to a bowl game. He left with a losing record of 91-109-4, yet still the coach with most wins in school history.

Mike Bellotti came to Eugene with a head coaching record of 21-25-2 at Chico State. He left Oregon with a 137-80-2 record and the most wins in school history.

Finally Chip Kelly from New Hampshire took over. He made his coaching bones on football teams from Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, and University of New Hampshire. In a break from tradition Kelly didn't leave Oregon as the new all time wins leader, but did have the best winning percentage at 46-7.

Head Coach Mark Helfrich will eclipse them all by the time he hangs up his whistle. Most wins, top winning percentage, most national championships, the works.

The former Pirate will also erase the hard feelings for all former Bulldogs during his tenure. The most recent game between the two schools ended with a 49-16 North Bend win in 2012, so that helps.

Jump aboard for the next decade of Duck dominance in the west. It'll be a wild ride with a Pirate at the helm.

Learn to accept the past as a learning tool instead of a weapon of despair.

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