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Why The Civil War Will Always Be the Most Important Game of the Year

Friday, November 28, 2014


Beavers vs. Ducks, via go-beavers.blogspot.com

There is an ongoing debate among Duck fans regarding who their biggest rival is, Washington or Oregon State. While the results are far from unanimous, the Huskies usually come out on top (or, is that on bottom?) There is, quite simply, a certain level of animosity felt towards our rivals to the north that can’t seem to be manifested for our in-state brethren. 

While this is in large part due to the long history of bitter and historic battles both on and off the field between the Ducks and the Huskies, there is no doubt a certain level of underhanded joy Duck fans get knowing how much this declaration tweaks Beaver fans. How, on some level, it irks the Corvallis faithful that Nike U roots so hard for them in games like Saturday, when they traveled up to Seattle to take on Huskies.

It may be a cliché, but there is definitely a brotherly quality to the Civil War rivalry. And while you may despise your cross-town nemesis on levels that cannot be described, there is no greater feud than a sibling rivalry. I know that for all the various sports I played growing up, all the big moments and championship games, nothing could compare to the intensity of one-on-one driveway basketball against my brother.

It definitely wasn’t because we hated each other, although if you happened to be watching us play, that thought may have crossed your mind. There was simply too much at stake to get caught up in useless and petty feelings like hate and anger. This sort of intensity is something that can only be created as the product of two things: Pride and Proximity. 

When you boil it all down, all sport is about pride. Sure, there are millions of dollars at stake at the highest levels, but, when it comes right down to it, the best of the best are purely playing for pride. They might talk about rings and trophies, but, make no mistake about it, it’s not about the gold and jewels, but what they represent that is the ultimate goal of any athlete. 

While there are no physical rings or trophies on the line in driveway basketball, there might as well be. Because among siblings, there is no trophy that can compare to being able to look across the dinner table, knowing that today, you are the champion. No matter your size or age, today you are the “Big Brother.”

And, when you came up short, there is no feeling that will eat away at you quite like knowing that in the next room over is your brother who got the best of you that day. The constant reminder every time you pass in the hallway, when you stand next to him while you brush your teeth before bed, and when you sit next to them on the bus ride to school. The next battle cannot come soon enough. Redemption must be had.

Sure, you might brag to your friends or even make it in the local paper when you vanquish your hated cross-town foe. And, you may punch a hole in the wall or even shed a tear when you come up short. Yet, for the most part, those emotions are fleeting and easy to ignore. Days or weeks may go by without even giving it a passing thought.

That’s why, no matter how much negative emotions you build up towards some outside adversary, they will never hold the significance of those who share the same house with you. Or, in the case of Oregon and Oregon State, occupy the same state. Those who you can’t avoid, whether at the fridge or the grocery store. Sitting across the table doing homework, or in the cubicle across the aisle at the office. It doesn’t even have to be spoke of, and sometimes it’s even worse when it’s left unsaid, but it’s always there. 

That’s what makes classic in-state rivalries like the Civil War so great. While some make a point to declare who is the “Big Brother” and who is the “Little Brother”, that’s really nothing more than another way to poke, prod and tweak your biggest rival. Those monikers won’t truly be assigned until the final score is settled, and they only really last a year.

Still, with a string of six consecutive wins in the series and once again being heavy favorites heading into this year’s matchup, it’s easy for Duck fans to downplay the importance of the game. Giving backhanded compliments about how much they root for the Beavers in all other games, about how the team they REALLY hate is the Huskies, or how if they couldn’t win the league, they’d like the Beavs to take the crown.

That all sounds real nice, and is easy to say when you’re on top and confident that you’ll win again. But, I guarantee you that when Victor Bolden took a handoff and sprinted 25 yards into the east endzone of Autzen Stadium last year to take a 5 point lead with 1:38 left, and it looked as if the Beavers were set to pull off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the series, there were a lot of Duck fans questioning that idea. I know I was.

Like a bizarro near-death experience, the next year flashed before Duck fans eyes. The orange and black streamers awaiting you in your cubicle. The relentless jabs from your Beaver cousins at Christmas. The “losers first” every time you go to tee off with your golf buddies. Or, god forbid, that new Oregon State Civil War Champions t-shirt you must now wear to bed every night because you got cocky and made a stupid bet with your, now endlessly fist-pumping spouse. Oh god, what did I do?! How did this happen?!?!

Suddenly, it becomes clear. This is the one must win game of the season. This is the one that will truly affect the next year of my life. This is the one that will eat away at my soul, the one I will be constantly reminded of every day. This is the game that matters.

And, while Marcus Mariota and Josh Huff were able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the final seconds, saving Duck fans for another season, it was just the kind of wakeup call this rivalry needed. A reminder that regardless of records, rankings or recruits, anything can happen when in-state rivals meet at the end of the year, when pride and proximity collide, when brothers square off.

This rivalry is more than just about standings, bowl games or even national championships. This game is about the true essence of sports. It’s about the right to look your most familiar foe in the eye and say, “Today, I’m better than you.” All the while knowing that there will soon be another battle and you won’t always win, but, until then, you’re going to enjoy the heck out of this. 

You see, there is no greater joy in all of sports than beating your brother, and no more frustrating feeling than coming up just short. Those are the battles that truly matter. The one’s that make you who you are today. Because, no matter how many rings, trophies or titles you may collect, what does it all really mean, at the end of the day, you can’t even come home and talk trash to your own brother?

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.


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