The Great Gig In The Desert, Part 3, Part 2

Welcome, indeed.

I have this way of anticipating a moment for a long time, and, despite my best efforts not to, building it up in my mind until there’s no possible way for the actual experience to match what I’m looking for. When whatever I’m anticipating finally happens I wind up disappointed to some degree.

I call these experiences Classic Truman Capps Moments. If ever you happen to hear me muttering ‘And that’s another Classic Truman Capps Moment,’ you can be sure that I just tried a combination of toppings at Subway that tasted disgusting, or a girl just told me she couldn’t go out with me because she was a ‘free spirit’ or ‘helping her parents move.’

Walking into University of Phoenix Stadium, something I’d been anticipating since early December when we won the Civil War, was not a Classic Truman Capps Moment.


We were each frisked by security, and then directed to walk through a gaping open garage door that would take us underneath the bleachers and into the stadium. The Oregon Marching Band stumbled in like 200 small town yokels on their first trip to the big city, craning our necks to look up past the lights and everything else to see the stadium ceiling so high above us.

Everyone who had not previously been aware that this shit was real now officially knew: This shit was about as real as it was ever going to get. We were walking into an 80,000 seat stadium packed with people waiting to see the last college football game of the season, nationally televised, between the two best teams in the country, one of which was the team of the school we’d all been going to and loving for anywhere between six months and, in one case, 15 years.

This is America, and we all know that men should not cry. However, if there is one circumstance when a man can cry, it’s when he’s been brought to his knees by the pure beauty and majesty of college football. So yeah, I teared up a bit. Feel free to mock me for it, if you want to, but I dare you not to do the same when you walk into the stadium where your team is playing the BCS National Championship.

"No, I've... I've just got something in both my eyes."

Coupe de grace? The theme from ‘Chariots of Fire’ was playing over the stadium PA system. The only music that might be better for those circumstances is the last two minutes of November Rain, but then that music is better suited to something exploding with a motorcycle jumping out of the explosion on fire and then the person on the motorcycle leaps off and lands in an awesome tuck and roll and then the motorcycle also explodes.

So we climbed the stairs into our spot in the bleachers, arrayed behind the Oregon goalposts, and looked out across this gigantic stadium to see that about two thirds of it was orange and blue. One entire side of the stadium, not to mention a few sections of the opposite side, was uniformly full of people who were rooting against the Ducks.

Full disclosure - this is an LSU home game. But still, nobody here is making jokes about fathers and bribery.

So what happened there, Duck fans? We were one of the most talked about teams all season. We had the AP Coach of the Year. This was the first National Championship we’ve ever been to, and most of you just couldn’t make the drive? Auburn is about 600 miles further from Glendale than Eugene is, but they were still able to rally enough fans to turn the National Championship into a home game.

That sort of thing is why the SEC can talk like they’re the only people who know how to play football – they’ve got the numbers to back up whatever heinous shit they say. Their fans may not make as many corny hip hop videos about their team, but they’re very, very good at going to football games. Yesterday, Auburn held a victory rally in their stadium and 78,000 people showed up. It was like Saturday’s slapdash Parade of Champions in Eugene, only less rain and probably far more people who actually wanted to be there. Like, probably 78,000 more.

But, on the bright side, it wasn't six miles!

So we hoisted The Sign and cheered extra loud and wiled away the seemingly endless minutes until it was time to run onto the field for our pregame show, an event which, in spite of how much time we spent dodging TV cameras and playing jump rope with AV cords as we ran on, was still fairly awesome. And we filed back to the stands and watched the clock tick closer to zero, and then, something amazing happened:

Hey, who's that dapper gentleman behind him?

The little fucker made it.

I don’t know how he managed to convince the hospital to discharge him, the marching band to let him come, or stadium security to allow an apparent SARS case in a surgical mask to walk into a stadium full of people, but somehow Trevor Jones fought off the icy grip of death to come to a football game, so great was his love of his Ducks.

So again, Oregon fans, not to belabor the point, but in the future you should try to be more like Trevor.

...but not too much.

Multiple service organizations sang various patriotic songs, and then the National Anthem, the performance of which included a trained eagle flying around the stadium (this, the flamboyant union of college football and America, is another acceptable time to cry), and then, at last, came the moment that Duck fans everywhere had been waiting for not just the past month, or the past season, but for their entire lives:


Courtesy Charlie Riedel, AP.

I was going to fudge the details and say that on the buses going home, we sang Mighty Oregon like Peanuts characters – a somber unofficial tradition in which members of the marching band quietly sing the word ‘loo’ to the tune of the fight song, not unlike the way the kids hum ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ in A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s about the most dignified and graceful thing the band does, and we do it, from time to time, when events have transpired in such a way that there’s nothing left to say.

But we didn’t sing it - not that I heard, at least, and while it's good enough for a title, it's not good enough to lie about. We ate Chick-Fil-A postgame meals as the bus spent an hour or so jerkily inching out of the parking lot with some 80,000 other cars and bitched about the game while watching drunk Auburn fans run into the bushes and piss. Before long, some mixture of illness, despondency, and the bus driver’s heavy handed application of the break pedal led Trevor to stumble into the coach’s bathroom and vomit the rest of the way home.

As I listened to my friend wretching and watched Auburn band members chest bump one another in the parking lot, I realized that this would, forevermore, be my last memory of the Oregon Marching Band. Not my best, no, nor my worst, but in 30 years, that’s going to be what I remember as my last moment with the OMB: Very acutely understanding the experience of defeat. It smells like bile and tastes like cold fried chicken.

And that’s another Classic Truman Capps Moment.

Truman Capps brings this whole thing to a close tomorrow – and aren’t you glad? Jesus, let’s just move on already.