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Tribune writer documents good and bad of Civil War (football)


Eggers' ambitious project leads to 488-page book

Kerry Eggers explores the century of rivalry in his new book.College football season is upon us. That means it is just a few months until the Civil War, the biggest sporting event in the state, which pits Oregon against Oregon State.

Portland Tribune reporter Kerry Eggers attended his first Civil War game in 1962 and has since been to about 30 Civil War games as a fan, student or journalist.

“I grew up in Corvallis, my dad worked at Oregon State, and I couldn’t have been a bigger Beaver fan growing up,” Eggers says. “Then I went to Oregon State and rooted for the Beavers. But when you get into your professional career, you have to play it down the middle. In my career as a journalist, I’ve watched it from an objective viewpoint.”

After growing up in the shadow of the Civil War, Eggers has written the definitive book on the rivalry game, “The Civil War Rivalry: Oregon vs. Oregon State.” The 488-page book ($24.99, The History Press) goes far beyond the box score to examine what it is that makes the game so riveting for people around the state.

At the risk of playing favorites with a guy I often sit next to in the press box, I caught up with Eggers to talk with him about his book:

Portland Tribune: How long have you wanted to write this book, and why was this a good time to do it?

Kerry Eggers: I never really thought about writing the book. The publisher was interested in having the book written, and it was suggested that I might be a person who could do it, so I talked to them. I thought, “It won’t appeal to just Oregon State fans, or just Oregon fans, it’ll appeal to most of the state’s college football fans.” That’s why I wanted to do it. And I like history. I’m kind of a history buff. Going back in the record books and looking at two programs that started 120 years ago was a lot of fun.

Tribune: What was the most challenging part of writing about a game that’s been played for more than a century?

Eggers: What I tried to do was pick the highlights. I wanted to get a cross section of generations and eras. I started with the first year, 1894. It was a challenge to find information. The Internet didn’t help you much back in 1894, or even in 1960. I had to go to the library, and that’s a laborious thing. But it’s interesting reading the old newspaper accounts in Portland and Eugene and Corvallis.

Tribune: How much did it add to the book to have forwards written by Oregon State coach Mike Riley and Oregon coach Mark Helfrich?

Eggers: It was really nice of both of them to do it. They’re both Oregon guys. They sense how important the game is to most of the state’s fans. It wouldn’t have been so much that way with (former Oregon coach) Chip Kelly, maybe. But I should say that Chip was great. He spent 20 minutes on the phone with me after he was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Tribune: Do you hope people read this book cover to cover? Or do you think Oregon fans will want to only read the parts about the Ducks and

Oregon State fans will only want to read the parts about the Beavers?

Eggers: Well, it’s a long book. Some people will read it cover to cover. Some people will flip around. There’s a variety of things for each reader to go through and pick out what they’ll enjoy.

Tribune: After examining all of the Civil War games, what do you believe makes it such a prominent part of the culture in Oregon?

Eggers: We don’t have NFL football. You can include the Timbers, but we really only have one of the major pro sports teams with the Portland Trail Blazers. Oregon and Oregon State are our pro sports teams. It’s a small state with two schools located 40 minutes apart. A majority of the people in the state either attended one of the two schools, or have family at one of the two schools. There’s a lot of bragging rights. That’s the way it started. And in the last 15 years the game has meant even more than that with the Rose Bowl on the line. It is a unique rivalry. There aren’t too many like it in the country.