I swore it would be different this time. As the Oregon Ducks' 2005 football season approached over the last few weeks, I told myself I wouldn't take it quite so seriously. Even in recent days, with disaster overwhelming New Orleans in the form of hurricane and floods, I tried to put this silly game in perspective.
But with kickoff for Oregon's season opener against the Houston Cougars just four and a half hours away, I'm almost beside myself with anxiety.
A lot of it has to do with last season. You see, I can take the losses that I see coming. USC whips us? OK, maybe that can't be avoided. Arizona State or Cal get by us in a squeaker? It happens. But last year Oregon was a 20-point favorite in its season opener at home against Indiana, and thanks to seven turnovers and a 97-yard kick return touchdown called back on a penalty, we lost. And the team never really recovered, finishing with its first losing season in well over a decade.
On paper, Oregon should definitely beat Houston. The Cougars were 3-8 last season, and Oregon is loaded with returning starters at every skill position. Kellen Clemens is one of only two senior quarterbacks in the Pac-10. Running back Terrence Whitehead is coming of a 1,000-yard season, and now he'll be backed up by freshman Jonathan Stewart, the highest-rated high school tailback in the nation last year. Receiver is stocked with thoroughbreds. Defensive back, once a big liability, is full of shut-down corners. And the defensive line is anchored by an absolute monster in Samoan Haloti Ngata.
But you just never really know. Something tells me that from 4-7PM today I'll be doing a lot of housework: scrubbing floors on my hands and knees, running the vacuum over every inch of carpet. What, you thought I was going to watch the game? Too nervewracking. I'll tape the game and watch it later if we've won.
This is what I call a relaxing pastime. Go Ducks!