Much has been said of coach Mario Cristobal and his determination to rebuild the Oregon Duck football team into an SEC clone. You know, those big-body, big-smelly, bullies.
Indeed, the Ducks have been fattened but has that only made them a bigger banquet for others to gobble or will they someday actually win the national championship?
For the time being, Duck fans have mostly bought in to Mario’s approach and are hoping things work according to his plan.
But . . .
Oregon is 0-1.
Yes, Oregon is bigger. But after the Auburn game, the Ducks ranked 105th for running the football, the sacred stat for measuring power in the trenches. Auburn ranked 60 spots higher.
That is the distance the Ducks must travel to transform from an SEC clone into a national champion in their own right.
But, those are just statistics and as Toby Harrah (former Texas Rangers player) once observed, statistics are like girls in bikinis. They show a lot, but not everything.
UO lost to Auburn—again—an SEC team and the kind of opponent the Ducks are supposed to begin to beat. It was a loss like fans have seen before in which the Ducks built a decent first half lead only to see it reversed after intermission.
They remember the Stanford game last year. A nice lead. Yet still pedal-to-the-metal after the break rather than work the clock. Then, a big mistake. And finally, a big play to lose it just before the gun sounded.
Two big games; two big opponents; two big losses, both at the very end.
Did players begin to fade in the heat of the second half against Auburn? Is Cristobal being out-coached during halftime breaks? Is his strategy of full-pedal to the end self-defeating? Is he not yet enough of a strategist to win big games?
It doesn’t really matter if it is one of those or all of them, the fingers all still point to coach Cristobal.
And yet, if we stopped with just that, we would be missing the bigger picture—the one of Mario Cristobal as a person; a man of high energy, principled character, and lucid vision. Perhaps he hasn’t yet grasped the finer points of winning big games, but he has great determination and a teachable nature, as evidenced by his recent trip to Alabama to again study at the feet of the self-christened master.
Throughout history, the combination of hard work and teach-ability has taken persistent people to the summit of success, although their ascents have rarely been rapid.
So Duck fans, let me ask you this: If you have a coach who will not rest until he kisses that glass trophy and all he needs is time to get there, then how long are you willing to wait? If a year from now we’re having this same conversation, will you still be on-board?
While we don’t know how long it will take nor where it will happen, it seems likely that Cristobal’s journey will someday reach that summit. And along the way, it is likely to be accompanied by this admonition from yesteryear’s Supreme philosopher, Dianna Ross:
“Ain’t no mountain high enough,
Ain’t no valley low enough,
Ain’t no river wide enough,
To keep me from getting to you . . .”
For those Duck fans whose dispositions rise and fall with the fortunes of lemons and limes, let me honor and encourage your steadfastness with these paraphrased words that have thrived through centuries past:
The race is not to the swift, but to those who endure.