I've been to the city of Eugene, where the University of Oregon is located.
At least, I think I have. The uncertainty is because, well, for starters, there’s not much to remember; and there were so many bugs on my windshield at the time that I couldn’t see much anyway.
But I digress.
I'm not here to talk about Eugene. (Does anyone anywhere ever talk about Eugene?)
Let's talk instead about a place where you can play pick-up basketball with Adam Sandler, catch a Novak Djokovic match at the tennis center, or snag a Lionel Messi autograph after an FC Barcelona practice on campus. Hey, that was just my sophomore year.
UCLA is situated in one of the most unique and exciting cities in the world. It routinely ranks in the top ten of universities around the world academically; at such a place, a decent athletics program should be seen as icing on the cake. Here, though, you can hardly see the cake for all that icing.
We have the most NCAA championships of all time. We don't have a Mount Rushmore of famous athletic alumni, because how can you fit the faces of Jackie Robinson, Ashe, Abdul-Jabbar, Joyner-Kersee, Griffith-Joyner, Kiraly, Aikman, Connors and Rafer Johnson onto one slab of granite? There's not enough room in this world on the mountain for that -- or Phil Knight's ego.
Every day the faculty of UCLA's economics department (ranked 16th in the world last year) preaches the value of long-term vs. short-term success. Heck, we pride ourselves on aiming high in the here and now, while honoring the vast importance of history past and history to come.
Bruin fans will be the first to admit that the achievements of the Oregon football program in recent years has been impressive. Yes, your system is fun, and yes, about one out of every four of your uniform combinations is rather slick. But we in Westwood measure success in national titles, and in that sense the University of Oregon might as well be Lewis & Clark College. We're still waiting.
We're still waiting on the Ducks, but we're not waiting quietly. Not Jim Mora, Anthony Barr, Brett Hundley or Myles Jack. We're the dog that won't go away, the boxer that won't go down, the gamesman stepping out for duck hunting season in autumn.
The thing about champions is that they can be knocked down, but they always come back.
The thing about Air Force 1s, zone reads and uniforms is that they are fleeting. Oregon fans of all people should appreciate how quickly things can go, move, change.
"But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow," declares Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings. "Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer."
There's a school where the sun shines hundreds of days out of every year, and that school ain't in Oregon. Darkness comes and goes, upstart teams have their flashes, corporate swoosh money rules the day, but the sun continues to rise over UCLA.
The great Samwise Gamgee is played by actor Sean Astin. I don't think I need to tell you where he went to college.