Watch a child celebrate. Arms extend. Eyes widen. Feet shuffle. Even vocal chords test their limits, for volume and pitch. What do all these expressions have in common? Expansiveness.
Every celebration is also an invitation. “My arms are open! Who’s with me? Did you see what I saw? Let’s dance!” Reaching up, reaching out — a distinction without a difference. Celebration seeks partners.
Eugene has reason to celebrate right now, so let’s get to it.
Eugene City Council is on the verge of accepting a deal that will add large new parks south and north, following a huge acquisition that will expand Buford Park to the east. “On the Rocks,” University of Oregon’s male a cappella ensemble, has advanced to the third round of NBC’s musical contest show, “The Sing Off.” A local developer wants to buy a downtown building from the city for more than a dollar. And our football team will compete for best in the nation.
Can we do a happy dance?
It doesn’t matter whether the Ducks beat the Auburn Tigers in the BCS Championship Game on January 10. Our team is on that stage and they belong there. The New York Times Magazine profiled our Ducks last Sunday, extending the buzz way beyond the sports page. It started with billboards and uniforms. But now people want to talk about our talent, strategy, and how we play the game.
As Head Coach Chip Kelly put it, “It’s not about our uniforms. It’s about our players inside them.” Exactly. Those slick uniforms have proven devilishly difficult to stop this year.
If Kelly hasn’t read Dr. Seuss’s “Pale Green Pants,” he really should. My favorite parts:
Then I was deep within the woods
When, suddenly, I spied them.
I saw a pair of pale green pants
With nobody inside them!
I wasn’t scared. But, yet, I stopped
What could those pants be there for?
What could a pair of pants at night
Be standing in the air for?
I said, “I do not fear those pants
With nobody inside them.”
I said, and said, and said those words.
I said them. But I lied them.
Many an opposing tackler could have uttered those words. Nike designed the uniforms, but the University of Oregon filled them.
Millions of viewers have learned to pronounce “Eugene, Oregon.” In many people’s minds, we’ve arrived. Never mind we were here all along, we’ve gotten to a new place. We’re on the map. That’s worth celebrating.
Are we ready for the celebration of Eugene that’s more than a weekend festival in September, sometimes October, but now in August? Can we celebrate Eugene anytime we feel like it now? This perpetual party would honor this place — not the city of Eugene, but this place we all call home.
Celebrating Eugene can be for everyone who wants to join in, inviting with extended arms and shuffling feet those in Springfield, Junction City, Creswell, where ever. Who’s with us?
Springfield can teach us about winter celebrations. For 58 years, they’ve staged Oregon’s “oldest and coldest Christmas parade.” I don’t know where we’d get ticker tape, but a parade after the January football game — win or lose — must happen. We can’t all be waiting at the airport to welcome home our players.
A hundred years ago, Eugene was known for its float parades — “canoe fetes” — down the millrace. Townies in the ’60’s celebrated a day of the week, “dragging the gut” every Friday from one end of Willamette Street to the other. Only recently have we become celebration snobs, limiting ourselves to capitalized commemorations.
Basking doesn’t come naturally to Oregonians, but we should do our best. Close your eyes and smile. You can almost hear Don Essig’s ritual of promise: “It never rains .…”
The celebration may start with the football team, but it must gather all of our recent accomplishments — town and gown — as it rolls along. Winter fits the theme. We’re ready to see our successes snowball. The circle widens with every turn.
I’m taking my cue from Kelly himself. His first ESPN interview this week expanded the topic beyond their opponent, beyond the championship, beyond football. The first words out of his mouth: “We’re just really excited to represent our university….”
Don Kahle (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes a weekly column for The Register-Guard and blogs occasionally here. He served on the Eugene Celebration parade committee for many years.