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Despite loss, state can be proud of UO's Ducks

Playing for a national championship was a big plus for the state of Oregon, even in defeat.

The publicity and recognition has been a nice advertisement for Oregon and for the state’s most visible university. Clearly, it was also a showcase for Washington County-based Nike, which supplies the team with its unique, ever-changing uniforms and athletic gear. The spotlight will undoubtedly be good for fundraising for the University of Oregon, and provide a big boost for recruiting student-athletes for future Oregon Duck teams.

At the very least, playing in a national championship was great for civic pride. With the NFL’s defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks just up Interstate 5, and Oregon rising to within a hair of a championship, no one can dispute that some of the best football in the nation is being played — not in Texas or Pittsburgh or Alabama, locations often seen as hotbeds of football fanaticism — but right here in the Pacific Northwest.

The national news media has been featuring a variety of stories on UO, and the entire state has been getting some media love in recent days and weeks as a result of the success of the Ducks football team, which finished the season with a stellar 13-2 record.

The game sparked some good-natured and good-humored betting as well: Last week, the city of Hillsboro, Ore., made a bet with the city of Hillsboro, Ohio, about which team would win — the one from Oregon or the one from Ohio. The two cities agreed that the loser would send generous selections of beer and wine to the victor, which can build lasting friendships.

We noticed numerous demonstrations of support for the team, from UO alums and others, with homes and cars festooned with Ducks paraphernalia. For examples, take a look at some of the photos we’ve gathered from proud fans around the area — many of whom remember when, not too many years ago, Oregon was often a national laughing stock, regarded as one of the country’s most inept football programs. Those perceptions have been completely transformed in recent seasons.

We were impressed with the level of support from fans of the Beavers of Oregon State University. They could have wished for a Ducks’ defeat, but anecdotal evidence suggests that many OSU fans wanted to see Oregon win, as home state pride took over along with the common sense knowledge that the entire Pac-12 Conference stood to benefit if one of its teams could become a national champion.

It was highly unfortunate that two players — Darren Carrington, one of the Ducks’ wide receivers, and Ayele Forde, a special teams standout — were suspended for marijuana use just a couple days before the game.

Oregon is by no means alone when it comes to young players making dumb mistakes, but it is a black eye, and the players involved should be embarrassed for the distraction they saddled their team with on the eve of the biggest possible stage.

On ESPN, we heard — and agreed with — famed commentator Stephen A. Smith bemoan the fact that, once again, athletes could not “stay off the weed,” even with the opportunity of a lifetime for their team and themselves right in front of them. Selfish behavior, indeed.

On the other hand, Oregon’s quarterback — Marcus Mariota — has been a classy role model of grace and character throughout his career. Mariota won the Heisman Trophy, given to the nation’s best college football player, and he was a welcome change from the previous two Heisman winners, whose record of off-field antics and allegations did not reflect well on college sports.

The game on Jan. 12 represented a rare opportunity for a team from Oregon to claim a national title and make history as the first football championship for the University of Oregon in what was the inaugural national championship football game.

Oregon fell short on the scoreboard Monday night, but the team made us proud all year, and the loss will never change that.

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