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The Pick, 25 Years On

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Today is the functional 25th anniversary of The Pick, the interception that sealed Oregon’s victory over Washington on October 22, 1994. I was at the game, as I believe was Loomis although I don’t believe we were sitting together. In case you’re wondering, the 1994 version of Loomis was every bit as grumpy as the one we know and love today. My guess is that even many of the folks who were at the game remember the Pick from the Jerry Allen call, rather than from personal experience. I remember storming the field at the end of the game more than I remember the interception itself.

The play is generally regarded as one of the most critical sequences in the history of Oregon football, as the win came as part of a streak that enabled the Ducks to go to the Rose Bowl for the first time in decades. Unfortunately, the Ducks lost that game to a Penn State team coached, in part, by Jerry Sandusky. Of course, our memory creates a coherent narrative where none necessarily exists; Oregon football was already in the process of recovery and the key elements of its rise (Phil Knight’s money, changes in scholarship policies, new ideas about uniforms) would have emerged even without the 1994 Rose Bowl.

The 1994 Oregon-Washington game was more poignant for me than for most, as it was the last game I attended before leaving school for a couple of trimesters because of money difficulties. It was amazing to have shared the moment with a stadium full of people, and also some of my closest friends, and I think that overall it helped cement my commitment to returning to school, and specifically to Oregon. Tragically, I would later go to graduate school at Washington…

I can say with no hyperbole that watching the Pick in person is one of five or so most memorable moments in my life; the rest would all, I think, involve my kids. People who aren’t sports fans will struggle to understand this, but I suspect that everyone who is a serious fan of any particular school of franchise will have a story of a similar experience. The shared experience of sports binds us together, while also punctuating our lives with moments of glory and tragedy. And part of that, necessarily, is bittersweet astonishment that comes with the recognition that the Pick happened 25 years ago.

In any case, the Ducks once again play the Huskies this afternoon, although sadly not at Autzen. I’ll be watching in company of a friend I met randomly in Lexington, who was also on the field (as a player!) on the day of the Pick. And so it goes.

Go Ducks!

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