Saturday, October 1, 2011

What is it Like to Be a Duck Fan?


A classic piece of writing from philosophy is titled "What Is It Like to be a Bat?" The article, originally inspired by Timothy L.S. Sprigge, was written in 1974 by Thomas Nagel. I am going to dissect it, some and change it to "What Is It Like To Be A Duck Fan?" Just a fun experiment I decided to undertake after perusing other fan sites and noticing just how we are perceived outside of Autzen.

Let's start with the 7th paragraph. The first six discuss the concepts of consciousness and terminology. The seventh begins the meat of the philosophical inquiry into the consciousness of bats.

I assume we all believe that bats have experience. After all, they are mammals, and there is no more doubt that they have experience than that mice or pigeons or whales have experience.
Let's look at this from a sports fan now. We could well say about ourselves:

I assume we all believe that Duck fans have experiences. After all, they are fans and there is no more doubt that they have experiences than that Beaver fans or Husky fans or Cougars fans have experience.
Thus begins the crux of any philosophical understanding of what it is like to be the fan of any given team other than the one of which you happen to be a fan. There is no doubt that fans of one team behave similarly towards their team as do fans of another. Do others think that Duck fans do not have pride in the accomplishments of their university? Of course we do. Are we supposed to have less pride in their accomplishments than other fans have? Would that even make sense?

Nagel goes on:

I have chosen bats instead of wasps or flounders because if one travels too far down the phylogenetic tree, people gradually shed their faith that there is experience there at all. Bats, although more closely related to us than those other species, nevertheless present a range of activity and a sensory apparatus so different from ours that the problem I want to pose is exceptionally vivid (though it certainly could be raised with other species). Even without the benefit of philosophical reflection, anyone who has spent some time in an enclosed space with an excited bat knows what it is to encounter a fundamentally alien form of life.

I have chosen Duck fans because, well, we are Duck fans.

I have chosen Duck fans instead of Linfield Wildcat or Lewis & Clark fans or Arlington High School fans because the further one travels down the divisional tree, people will gradually lose their faith that those are passionate fans. Being a Duck fan, is closely related to being fans of the Beavers, Huskies or Cougars, nevertheless, due to our unique history, we present a range of activity and passion so different from theirs that the problem I want to pose is exceptionally unique (though it certainly could be raised with other universities). Even without the benefit of philosophical reflection, any Duck fan who has spent time with a Husky or Beaver fan in an enclosed space knows what it is to encounter a fundamentally alien form of life.   
Isn't this the essence of the differences of what it is like to be a Duck fan? Perusing around and seeing the utter bitterness by many Beaver fans; and seeing the incessant disdain Husky fans have for the university and it's fans, one simply has to wonder what is the root of their frustrations? Do they not see that everything they loathe about our university and fans are inherently present within their own university and fans? Do we not see this as well?

I have said that the essence of the belief that bats have experience is that there is something that it is like to be a bat. Now we know that most bats (the microchiroptera, to be precise) perceive the external world primarily by sonar, or echolocation, detecting the reflections, from objects within range, of their own rapid, subtly modulated, high-frequency shrieks. Their brains are designed to correlate the outgoing impulses with the subsequent echoes, and the information thus acquired enables bats to make precise discriminations of distance, size, shape, motion, and texture comparable to those we make by vision. But bat sonar, though clearly a form of perception, is not similar in its operation to any sense that we possess, and there is no reason to suppose that it is subjectively like anything we can experience or imagine. This appears to create difficulties for the notion of what it is like to be a bat. We must consider whether any method will permit us to extrapolate to the inner life of the bat from our own case, and if not, what alternative methods there may be for understanding the notion.
There is an essence of belief that Beaver fans, Husky fans, Cougar fans, and all fans, for that matter have experience. There is something that it is like to be a fan of another university. We know that most fans gather outside stadiums, discuss their teams (and their love of that team to be specific) perceive other fans as inherently different. Their brains have been programmed to have pride for a university, its players and coaches. But this fanship is clearly not like anything we can understand. Or can we?

The Mascot is a part of us all!
I often hear the "insult" from fans of other schools who claim that because some Duck fans did not attend the University of Oregon, they somehow should not be allowed to be fans. Huh? How does that even make sense. We know for certain that most fans are indoctrinated at a very young age; I am quite certain that when I was cheering for the Ducks at 9 years old, I was not a student of the university.

Being a fan of a university does not require that you attend the university, only that you identify with it for some reason or another. It could be proximity, it could be parental affiliation, it could be desire to play there, desire to attend the university someday or it could simply be some other factor like a favorite player who plays for the team. There is no prerequisite that says fans must be alumni of a university. The mere comments are almost ludicrous.

The next part of being a Duck fan that schools with long, rich traditions do not understand is why Duck fans behave like they behave. And, I am not talking about rowdy or obnoxious behavior. Instead I am referring to the popular accusation by fans of other teams that Duck fans are "arrogant" and think too highly of their university.

I know plenty of Duck fans; none that I personally know are arrogant about the successes of the Ducks. Simply put, most Duck fans remember 2-9 seasons, a half empty stadium and blowout losses to the Nebraska's of the college football world. Duck fans take great pride, though, that we have been able to rise from the rubble of a consistent bottom ten program to a perennial winner and now consecutive Conference Championships.

As a team who has had success continues to have success there will be more fans who only remember success. That is a natural cycle. The longer a team's successful ways continue, there will be fewer fans who remember the "bad times." Does it make Alabama fans arrogant that they expect their team to win 10 games every year? No. It is all that they really know. The same cane be said for several programs.

I find it odd, though, how fans of other teams can so blatantly misread articles and take a meaning that is the exact opposite of the words that were written. Specifically, as I perused boards of other teams who had read a recent article from this site, I was astonished at how poorly they misinterpreted the words. As an example, in the last article I said that Lache Seastrunk was suspended after Oregon's internal investigation into the Will Lyles matter had turned up evidence that Seastrunk had accepted extra benefits. Somehow, both Texas fans AND Husky fans (thanks for the hits!) seemed to read that as "the Ducks knew before Seastrunk signed and recruited him anyway." Huh? Where did they read that?!

But, that is the essence of being a fan, you read for a slant that makes you feel comfortable. We are Duck fans, we are not going to sit around and say to ourselves:

Yeah, you know what, my team sucks, They are cheaters and I really do not like them, but I will be at the game Saturday cheering!
I did not expect USC fans, during the Reggie Bush investigation to turn on their team, it's players or coaches. I do not expect Duck fans to turn on the team, its players or coaches. Whatever becomes of our investigation, we are Ducks. Once a Duck ALWAYS a Duck. We will stay true and be ever vigilant in our unbridled dedication to our university and its teams.


There are always troubling possibilities during any times of turbulence. Nevertheless, we will persevere in our fandom. Personally, I have always been a glass FULL kind of guy (half full of water, half full of air). There is ALWAYS a silver lining.

One thing I do want to talk about... our attitudes towards certain others... There are several journalists that many Duck fans have taken issue with for their content, style and mannerisms. I have taken issue with those same people. However, recently I learned that one of these journalists received a threat credible enough that he had to remove his child from one school and move the child to another. The threat, specifically, was "I know where your child goes to school." I am uncertain if this was a Duck fan or not, but let me say that the actions of whoever said that are reprehensible beyond description. Folks, I love the Ducks as much as the next person; but it IS just a game. To threaten a young child over sports? Really? Whoever that person was, seek help. You have more than a fanship, you have a destructive obsession.

I have opened up personal lines of communication with most of the writers I have taken umbrage with... these are trying times. We must not let ourselves get too sucked into the darkness that befalls some men. Enjoy the games; love your university; have tolerance. Many of us experienced some pretty horrible things from fans of other teams, let us try to rise above that; be better than what we experienced.


What is it like to be a Duck fan? It is the same as being the fan of any other university. We have our own history filled with great memories and bad; big wins and heartbreaking losses. We have our unique experiences of watching a team rise from the bottom of the barrel and get to heights many never imagined possible. We have watched players move from here to legendary NFL careers; we have a legacy which includes NFL Hall of Famers. We have experienced everything froma  "toilet bowl" in the lake that was Autzen for a 0-0 tie to the epic anthem of "It Never Rains in Autzen Stadium."

What is it like to be a Duck fan? It is just like being a Husky or Beaver or Cougar fan. It is an experience we live and love. What is it like to be a Duck fan? It is the greatest feeling in the world.
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