Last Sunday evening I was flipping channels when I came across a broadcast that made me say, "Hallelujah!"
It was the first NFL preseason football game.
Although college football is really my favorite more than pro, after several weeks of withdrawal following the end of the basketball season (I don't watch baseball), the sight of the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins playing in the annual Hall of Fame Game had me glued to the television for the next three hours.
I've often wondered why I still like football by far the best out of the major sports. It's not the violence and physical contact I crave so much as the blend of agility, speed and chess-like tactics. It also makes a big difference that I played football as a kid, and basketball and soccer: the three sports I still follow.
Naturally, my obsessive and fanatical Oregon Ducks support means that I'll soon switch religious interjections from "Hallelujah!" to "God help us!" That would be true for any upcoming Ducks football season, but after suffering the worst trauma in the team's history last year, I'm not sure if I'm less nervous or more nervous now.
Last year, for the first time in 114 years of fielding a team, Oregon could claim it was the best college football team in the country, with the best player as well in quarterback Dennis Dixon. Don't take my biased word for it, though. Look at how the Ducks were ranked #2 in the nation with three games to go, all against lesser opponents.
I'll never forget hearing Kirk Herbstreit on ESPN say in an early November broadcast, "Dennis Dixon is in the driver's seat for the Heisman Trophy. It's his to lose." Or Craig James on CBS, when asked what team he expected to see in the BCS national championship game: "I like Oregon."
When Dixon went down with a knee injury, those dreams of a spot in the national championship game and a Heisman Trophy died, and part of me with them.
Dixon and star running back Jonathan Stewart are gone to the NFL now, and Oregon has some very promising players replacing them in quarterback Nic Costa and running back LaGarrette Blount, as well as countless returning starters with star potential like running back Jeremiah Johnson and defensive back Patrick Chung. But it's unrealistic to expect Oregon to be in the running again this year for a national championship or even a prestigious January bowl game appearance. What constitutes a success this year? Twenty years ago I'd have cried tears of joy over just a winning season for Oregon, or a victory against Oregon State. Now an 8-4 or 7-5 season feels like a disappointment, or at least only a mildly pleasant experience.
Just once in my life I want to feel that brass ring of a championship: either the Ducks or the Blazers going all the way. I was too young to appreciate the Blazers' 1977 championship, and now as an adult I saw the most heartbreaking house-of-cards collapse for my beloved Ducks in a lifetime of supporting them. But if that championship ever does come to Portland or Eugene, naturally all the suffering will be worth it.
So yes, to borrow from the excruciating Hank Williams Junior, I am indeed ready for some football.