Monday, June 25, 2007

The Sports Week in Oregon: A State of Euphoria

Next Wednesday is the Fourth of July, so celebrations are on the way in all 50 states. However, sports fans in one of those states will be setting off fireworks a week early. This week, Oregon is the sports capital of the USA.

Sunday night in Omaha, Oregon State won its second consecutive College World Series championship with a 9-3 victory over North Carolina. UNC also fell in last year’s championship series, so the Tar Heels once again settled for the honor of “best team outside of Corvallis.” The Beavers were superior in all facets of the game during the two-game sweep at Rosenblatt Stadium. Their advantage even extended to the dugout reporters, as Carolina settled for Kyle Peterson, while OSU hung out with Erin Andrews. ESPN invited an endless stream of inappropriate remarks by assigning its hottest female reporter to Beaver commentary.

OSU closed the postseason with ten consecutive victories. The run was particularly surprising given the club’s struggles in the regular season. The Beavers tied for sixth in the Pac-10 with a 10-14 conference record. They finished nine games behind league leader Arizona State, whom OSU beat 12-6 in Omaha. Last month, the Beavers endured a three-game sweep by the Sun Devils as part of a 4-8 May. However, a miserable May gave way to a championship in June. Dirk Nowitzki can only wish he had the same opportunity.

While the Portland Trail Blazers are not currently championship material, they will also have reason to celebrate this Thursday. The Blazers will take a step up in class after making the #1 selection in the NBA draft. Portland has not won a playoff series since its crushing Game 7 loss to the Lakers in the 2000 Western Conference finals. For a while, the Blazers still enjoyed relevance as the go-to team for cracks about criminal activity. However, even that honor has been stolen (as well as assaulted and driven drunk) by the Cincinnati Bengals.

However, on the heels of Brandon Roy’s Rookie of the Year campaign, the franchise will become relevant once again Thursday night. Unless Kevin Durant is the surprise choice, Ohio State’s Greg Oden will be Portland’s most anticipated draftee since Bill Walton in 1974. The Blazers certainly hope that Oden has better luck than Walton in avoiding injuries. However, they would be happy for Oden to follow the big readhead’s example in leading the Blazers to an NBA championship. Portland will even take the risk that 30 years from now, Oden will be an egotistical broadcaster bantering with Snapper Jones.

With sports in the Beaver State on the rise this week, perhaps it is time for Oregon to improve its state motto as well. The current one is “Alis volat propriis” - Latin for “She flies with her own wings.” First of all, no state should have a motto that sounds like a Patrick Swayze ballad from Dirty Dancing. Also, whoever “she” is, why would she be flying with someone else’s wings? The state animal is a beaver, so why would wings even enter the picture at all? Is the phrase a sly reference to the fact that One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest takes place in Oregon? As you can see, the current motto raises more questions than answers.

In the meantime, the state will enjoy its sports karma while it lasts. The Atlanta Braves could use some of that good fortune these days. The Braves have lost five straight games by a combined score of 27-1. If things continue to go poorly tonight against the Washington Nationals, expect manager Bobby Cox to get tossed early and break the major league record for ejections. Cox won’t stay around for the post-game press conference. He’ll be on his way to Oregon, looking for answers.