This is the first of a week-long series of posts sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
It seems fitting that today's subject involves our personal journeys to finding the orange and black. With my recent graduation from high school and upcoming enrollment at Oregon State, it's been a story my dad has enjoyed telling as frequently as possible over the past few weeks.
The first college football game I ever attended was the 1998 Civil War at Reser Stadium. But first, let me back up.
Both of my parents attended Oregon State, which is where they met. My grandfather was an Oregon Duck.
Growing up, I always considered myself a Beaver rather than a Duck, but I had no real reason to lean one way or the other. I walked the middle, as my grandpa did his best to brainwash his grandson away from the status quo of my immediate family. But as any of us who live in the state of Oregon know, you can't spend your whole life as a "platypus."
My dad says I went to the 1998 Civil War as a Duck fan--which, may be true. As a competitive five year-old, I knew the only way that I could have bragging rights over my dad was to choose the opposite team from the one he was rooting for.
He seems to remember me yelling "Go Ducks!" and high-fiving nearby Duck fans after touchdowns, but I think those minor details have been added on over the years. But still, I won't deny the fact that I was walking the fence. I didn't really care -- yet.
I don't photographically remember Simonton's double overtime touchdown or much related to the game. However, I've retained two vivid memories: eating red licorice that my dad was keeping concealed in his camouflage hunting jacket (the weather was miserable), and seeing the student body bring down the goalposts, carry them out of Reser Stadium, and parade them around campus after the game.
I guess I got lucky... the first game I went to was among the best in the history of Beaver Football.
As I was going through my things a few weeks ago, I actually found my ticket stub from the game. I'll scan that puppy and include it in this post as soon as I get home from our Fourth of July mini-vacation.
A few years later, we got season tickets on the soon-to-be-remodeled side of Reser Stadium. I haven't been to every home game since then, but I haven't missed many.
I'm not sure at what point during that 1998 game or after I finally decided to end my aforementioned quest to attain bragging rights over my dad in anything possible, but I quickly became a Beaver junkie. While most people (my age, especially) went just to enjoy the game, I studied the rosters, analyzed the depth charts, and printed them all out so I could reference them during the games. Sometimes, I would bring a walkman to the stadium, so I could listen to Mike Parker's call of the game.
At some point during my eighth grade year, I witnessed the new phenomenon called "blogging." It was billed as any online website where ordinary people could publish their thoughts on anything they wanted. I loved sports, and statistics, and writing, and Oregon State. So naturally, my response was "Hey, I'm an eighth grader, but I can do that!". I was never much of an athlete, so I figured journalism might be a good fit. I'd say it was-- it's become a big hobby of mine.
Like many people, I started a blog on one of the sites allowing anyone to create a blog for free. It became "The Beaver Believer Blog", and delivered college football analysis from a middle schooler covered by a cloak of anonymity.
After putting several months worth of time and energy into the site, I received an e-mail from Tyler Bleszinski of Athletics Nation, who had founded the SB Nation network and was interested in recruiting me to his network. "Uh oh, now I'm getting in over my head!," I thought.
Several weeks later, Building the Dam was born. It's hard to believe that was about four years ago, and that Building the Dam was one of the first eight college blogs to join this network that now includes around 250 online communities that cover a myriad of sports teams and topics.
You could say that the pinnacle of my fandom came in 2007, when my dad and I made the trek to Omaha for the College World Series. I purchased my now beloved MacBook Pro prior to leaving Oregon for Nebraska, so I could post recaps and photos from the CWS games I attended to the blog from our hotel room. Just seeing the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium was a spectacle in itself, but Oregon State being there was icinng on the cake. And for them to actually WIN that National Championship? It was unbelievable.
Since 2006, this site has slowly yet steadily grown-- as I have, you could say. It's at times been a struggle to balance all my high school academics, athletics, and activities with my passion for journalism, and I've rarely been able to accomplish everything I've wanted to on Building the Dam.
However, we're beginning a new era here on BTD, as I will be in Corvallis full-time as a freshman in the fall. Oregon State was the only school I applied to as a high school senior, because, well-- I just wasn't going to go anywhere else. My involvement next year with the Oregon State athletic department may limit the analysis I can bring to BTD, but I'll always have a passion for publishing my thoughts to other passionate fans as part of the Oregon State community.
Many of us have come through Oregon State. Some of us, like myself, are on our way there. For a good majority of us, orange and black runs in our families. Others have become fans after being transplanted to the northwest, and having to choose one school or the other.
Although our backgrounds are different and we live in all parts of the world, we have one thing in common.
We are Beaver Nation.
That's my story. What's yours? How did you become a fan?
--Jake | (firstname.lastname@example.org)