What’s the last thing anybody wants to do after their Thanksgiving dinner? Yes, that’s right - move. That’s the real paradox of Thanksgiving – it’s a brief holiday that causes an immense traffic snarl-up across the country, all so millions of people can rush home, overindulge more than usual, and then turn right around and rush back wherever they’d come from, in spite of the fact that their digestive systems want them to spend the intervening weeks before Christmas sleeping.
My Thanksgiving this year is even more abrupt than the average Thanksgiving, because the University of Oregon has helpfully scheduled a football game for Friday, November 26th. Thanksgiving and football are both completely awesome, uniquely American traditions, but I’m not looking forward to being physically present at both of them in the space of 24 hours.
The new University of Oregon athletic director, Rob Mullens, received some criticism from fans for making gameday the day after Thanksgiving. His response was, “You can have the game be whenever you want, if you give us $600,000,” referring to whatever broadcast contract they’d worked out with ESPN.
And to that I say, fuck you, Rob Mullens! You have plenty of call to get snippy with people at other times of the year, but when you’ve scheduled a major event that requires thousands of athletic employees, security guards, janitors, cooks, policemen, and band members to cut their holiday short, some greater degree of apology is in order, whether you actually mean it or not.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Duck football. I love it just slightly less than I love Christina Hendricks, mostly in that I don’t want to see Duck football naked.*
*Yes, I am well aware that the Duck football experience includes the Oregon cheerleaders, who I would like to see naked, but if my seeing them naked required me to see everyone else involved in the Duck football experience naked (LaMichael James, Chip Kelly, toothless Crowd Management Services people from Springfield, the rest of the trumpet section), I would probably opt not to. I’m sure the Oregon cheerleaders would look spectacular naked, but if I had to also look at an entire stadium full of naked people in order to see them naked, it would ruin nudity for me altogether.**
**Incidentally, if any of the Oregon cheerleaders are reading this and are interested in working out some sort of more favorable nudity arrangement, don’t hesitate. Male cheerleaders need not apply.
I’m leaving home tomorrow, shortly after dinner, so that I can ride back down to Eugene with other band friends and get a good night’s sleep before the game, which, in true late November fashion, will be colder than Hoth, only with no warm Tauntauns to crawl inside.
I’ve been telling everyone who will listen that I’m praying for a freak blizzard/ice storm/zombie apocalypse to strike Oregon on Thanksgiving, anything to close down I-5 and give me a legitimate reason to throw up my hands, shrug, and say, “Oh well – guess I can’t make it to that there football game!” Some of my friends who are seniors have shaken their heads, saying, “No way, man; that’s our last home game. No way I’d miss that.”
And it occurred to me that, yes, this is going to be my last game playing with the Oregon Marching Band in Autzen Stadium. The Civil War this year is at Reser “Stadium” in Corvallis, and after that our next performance will be somewhere in the Sun Belt, preferably not in a location that ends with –adena.
But for whatever reason, I don’t feel myself experiencing an overwhelming rush of nostalgia. Not yet, anyway.
Autzen Stadium is the greatest stadium in the history of stadiums. It’s obnoxious and loud, like Gilbert Gottfried full of angry drunk people. It’s technologically advanced and powerful, like The Six Million Dollar Man full of drunk people. It’s classy and aesthetically pleasing but also won’t take your shit, like a young Edward James Olmos… Full of drunk people.
The Rose Bowl felt small and Husky Stadium felt like a clammy handshake from a boring kid who nobody likes and is consistently terrible at football. The Horseshoe isn’t bowl-y enough and The Big House looks like the Wolverines are compensating for something.
So understand this – I love Autzen and I love the Ducks. But after four years of attending every home game, I know the pattern each game takes. I know the ups and downs of the game itself, the smell of $9 kettle corn, the balls out rush of students running to get their seats, the solemn trooping of the team from the Casanova Center to the field, the look of shame on the face of the fan being ejected by the cops, the hint of weed in the air, and stadium announcer Don Essig’s creative pronunciation of virtually every word in the English language.
I enjoy all of those things – they’re the reasons I continue to put up with the ongoing weatherbeaten shitshow that is the Oregon Marching Band year after year. But my last one isn’t going to be all that different than the others, and it’s not an experience I’d be too sore about missing. The game looks just as good on TV.
Thanksgiving with my family, on the other hand, is something I want to have every second of. My Mom is a fucking amazing cook, in addition to being hilarious after more than two glasses of red wine, I’ve grown to miss my Dad’s unending onslaught of lame puns and dirty jokes, my cousin Gene is spending the holiday with us for the first time ever, the house is spotless and, unlike my place in Eugene, it doesn’t smell of beefy man BO and mouse droppings.
I love my Ducks, but I love my family more. So fuck you, Rob Mullens, and you, ESPN. I can’t help but notice that we didn’t have anything to do the weekend before this game – that would’ve been a great time for my final Autzen experience.
As it is, my final Autzen experience will coincide with the experience of running onto the field for pregame while still digesting the previous night’s turkey and mashed potatoes. And that will be a unique experience all its own.
Truman Capps loves his family, but does not want to see them naked.