Remembering a longtime subscriber: The I-5 Corridor mailbag
In memory of Richard Allen.
PORTLAND — It’s time for a confession.
For a decade I’ve covered the Oregon Ducks with only a small, selective circle of people actually knowing the truth: I, Tyson Alger, grew up a Huskies fan.
Before falling over your skis, hear me out. It wasn’t the purple and gold, or the location, or an affinity for Don James or Rick Neuheisel or that freaking siren they fire off after touchdowns that becomes increasingly alarming in this political climate.
It was as simple as this: They’re the first team I remember watching. It’s a foggy memory, but I think it was the 2000 Rose Bowl — could have been the 1999 Holiday Bowl — and I was at my Grandpa’s apartment in Anchorage. He had cable — we didn’t — which meant that for one of the rare times in my life I had access to TV that wasn’t watched through the snowstorm of bunny ears. I watched Mariners games there with him. I watched Wayne Gretzky’s last game in the NHL there with him. And in this particular memory, I remember him telling me all about Marques Tuiasosopo, explaining what a false start was and why teams would suddenly kick it on fourth down. (More on that later.)
For a kid who moved from Washington to Alaska when he was seven and always felt like a bit of an outsider — could have been skipping a grade; could have been the XXL hockey jerseys and sweatpants at school phase — getting to watch sports and listen to stories from Grandpa had me hooked.
When my grandparents moved to Palmer, I’d ride my bike three miles along farming roads to get to their place in the Equestrian Acres subdivision. I’d mow their lawn for $20, then spend the rest of the afternoon watching baseball with Grandpa. Then I’d bike back, and he’d redo the lawn because my lines weren’t straight enough.
Then, of course, life happened. I moved away for college in 2007, didn’t call much and haven’t even been back up to Alaska since 2016. But Grandpa was always pretty good with technology, so every place I’ve been, from Montana to Hawaii and now to Portland, he’d email or text about the teams I was covering. He rarely missed an Oregon game.
He was a Day 1 subscriber of mine at The Athletic and here at The I-5 Corridor, and did it ever tickle me to get emails like this:
And texts like these:
And to have moments like this when, after 21 years of watching bad baseball together, we finally saw our Mariners make the playoffs:
Richard Allen died on Sunday. He was 89. Cancer robbed the quality out of most of the final year of his life, as did the Mariners payroll constraints. While I wish I had a better kicker to this intro, there is a Game 7 about to start. Watching and getting angry about how far the Mariners have to go feels like a more productive way to spend my grief today than remembering this will be one of my first stories he’ll never read.
To the mailbag!
The Oregon Ducks must have a bunch of fans with short term memory or a younger fan base than I’m willing to admit. Isn’t Dan Lanning’s decision making similar to Chip Kelly? Most importantly, what advice are you giving to fans standing on the cliff’s edge and ready to fire Lanning? — Wade Clack
I realize the second part of this question would have had more significance had I turned this in the immediacy of the Washington loss, however my advice would be: Oregon is No. 8 in the country. We can totally have critical conversations about Lanning’s in-game decisions, but that’s about the only thing to harp on considering Lanning’s two years on the job.
In stabilizing a program abandoned by yet another coach, Lanning’s shown he can recruit and he can hire. His defense has improved from a season ago and, yes, from now until eternity, every time there’s a fourth down everyone in the building will crack their knuckles and give each other a knowing nod.
“I’m going to be aggressive to win games,” Lanning said last week.
And you’re right, Wade. This isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel. Let me take you all back to a little place I like to call 2010, a time when Oregon coaches were generating entries on Urban Dictionary and signs for College GameDay had a slightly NSFW edge to them.
All of this, of course, was due to Oregon’s second-year coach’s propensity to gamble on fourth down.
“It’s just, can we make it? And if we can make it, then we’re probably going to go for it,” is how Kelly described his approach to the LA Times in 2019.
And while it was a calling card for the entire Kelly era, 2010 was the peak. Oregon faced fourth down 94 times that season, went for it 34 times and converted it 22 times (64.71%). For those scoring at home, that means Kelly’s Ducks went for it on fourth down an average of 2.61 times per game.
Here in 2023, Dan Lanning’s Ducks are going for it an average of 1.85 times per game and converting it at a 62 percent clip. The main difference between him and Kelly being that, when Kelly’s 2010 Ducks failed to convert a pair of fourth downs against the Huskies, it had little impact on No. 1 Oregon’s 53-16 win.
What do you think are going to be Oregon’s most difficult games left in the regular season, ranked in order from hardest to easiest? — Jason McCleary