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Its hard out there for a Crimson Bear

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In the world of Oregon high school sports, the fall brings many great traditions. There's playing in the marching band at half time, running through the rain during cross country meets and complaining about the Oregon Sports Athletic Association.

Two years ago, the state underwent drastic redistricting, adding two more classifications and breaking up conferences and rivalries in the process.

Even before the state went to 6A, many high schools were upset about travel times within leagues and unfair competitive balances.

But those schools might feel better about their plight if they take a look at Alaska's Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears.

Lake Oswego hammered Juneau-Douglas on Saturday, scoring 35 points in the first half and didn't get much of a learning experience on the field. But maybe the team learned how fortunate it is to be playing in this part of the country. Or, more appropriately, to be playing anywhere other than Juneau, Alaska.

The Crimson Bears have already played five games, meaning their season is halfway over, which is understandable because if you tried to play football in Juneau in mid-November, you would probably need to hold your huddles in a hollowed out Ton-Ton carcass.

That also probably explains the Crimson Bears' offense, which usually featured all 11 players bunched together as the team set up intricate hand-offs. I assume this is done out of necessity in Alaska in order to stay warm.

In the media guide handed out at PGE Park it says that 90 percent of the team's practices and games are played in the rain. You won't see that same sentence in Juneau's tourism brochures.

It also says that the team's closest in-state opponent is 700 miles away (longer than the distance from Portland to San Francisco) and the team is responsible for paying for its own airfare to those games as well as the airfare for visiting teams to play them.

It's either that or hitch rides with the Ice Road Truckers.

To pay for this, each football player is required to earn nearly $1,500 prior to the season to support the program. For Lake Oswego students that's the equivalent of nearly 20 pairs of Abercrombie and Fitch jeans.

While looking at the Crimson Bears' schedule, I noticed that, after making the 2,000 mile flight home, their next opponent is North Pole High School. That's not a joke. North Pole!

In fairness (and disappointingly) the high school is not actually at the North Pole. It's in Fairbanks. The REAL North Pole's football took a hit this year when Blitzen tore his ACL after being laid out by a polar bear while running a slant pattern.

There have been times over the past few years where I have felt pity for Oregon's 1A and 2A schools in Eastern Oregon who face long bus rides every week just to find opponents.

Heck, I remember thinking how ridiculous it was when St. Helens was a member of the Three Rivers League, which meant upwards to an hour drive for Lake Oswego and Lakeridge. An hour? Preposterous!

It's difficult to imagine two high school programs with such very different experiences and I think that's part of the fun of the new Best of the West event.

And maybe this year, with luck, the North Pole Patriots will claim Alaska's state title and earn a date with one of Oregon's elite program.