In The Oregonian, John Canzano reprints a letter he received from a former Ducks football player. He recently ended his college career, and on Saturday, attended UCLA-Oregon for his first-ever game as a fan. He didn't have a fun time.
The player isn't named, but that doesn't particularly matter. It's fascinating enough to see how differently the game appears to a former player now on the other side. After recounting multiple run-ins with drunken, angry Ducks fans with nothing but criticism for the team (and this was during Oregon's ass-whooping of a very good UCLA), here's how he closes:
I remember walking in from fall camp practice and talking to my teammates about how similar our lives were to the TV series Spartacus. We were slaves. We were paid enough to live, eat, and train... And nothing more. We went out on the field where we were broken down physically and mentally every day, only to wake up and do it again on the next. On the outside, spectators placed bets and objectified us. They put us on pedestals and worshipped us for a short time, but only as long as we were winning. In the end, we were just a bunch of dumbass (racial slur) for the owners to whip, and the rich to bet on.
What I described is a business, I know. It's how it works, and it is something we understand as athletes entering the system, as (expletive) up as it is. For many people entering that system, it's better than what life has to offer elsewhere. So they take it. But having been on the outside now, to witness this disgusting display of "support", I know that I want no (expletive) part of it. I will never attend a duck game as a spectator again. I am disgusted by duck fans and I will sit back and observe from afar with high hopes for the player's success and understanding of their sacrifice, without having to hear the spoiled woes of ignorant fans.
I will always love the ducks: my coaches, my teammates, my brothers and family. The rest... Go (expletive) yourselves.
This obviously isn't unique to Autzen Stadium, and touches on some unsettled, universal issues. Are paying customers obligated to only be positive? Do fans and players "owe" each other anything? Does that equation change when the athletes aren't paid?
Canzano says he received a note from a second former player, backing up the claims in the first's open letter, and he'll publish it later today.