So, no one has been able to find a new name for the big football game, huh?
Many have certainly tried.
But if you’re talking about the intersection of football, wordplay and a love for all things Oregon, you know I’m up to join the hunt.
So, I spent the last week drawing up some options. Some were too wordy: The Sometimes A Great Commotion Bowl; The Detestation Amid Deforestation.
Too drab: The River Rivalry, The Meeting at the Willamette.
Too real: The Faultline Classic, until the inevitable day it becomes the Coastal Classic.
For that reason, The Really Big One was probably out, too.
Looking for something that is part-Beaver and part-Duck? That led me to the Rich Brooks Donnybrook.
I was partial to the Pinot War, but fans of all ages need to be able to drink the game in.
The quest to find a worthy moniker for The Game That Can Not Be Named was proving futile. I was starting to question whether one even existed. Whether like another certain figure of Pacific Northwest lore, the perfect name was a shadowy myth, just beyond our grasp, destined to remain hidden forever.
What do you call the big football game up here in the woods?
The … big … foot … ball … game?
That’s when it hit me. The Bigfoot Ballgame.
This was the first jolt of electricity through the twine of Benjamin Franklin’s kite. Alexander Fleming stumbling across penicillin. Nicki Minaj rhyming “Sri Lanka” and “Willy Wonka” with “watch the queen conquer.”
To say I was proud would be like calling Crater Lake wet. I was brimming with pride. Nay, bursting!
And to think, no one else had ever thought of it, it was all my id—
At 10:50 a.m. on June 26, 2020, the very day the University of Oregon and Oregon State made a joint announcement that they would ditch the Civil War name, a 26-year-old Chicagoan named Will Knights tweeted his suggested replacement. “The Bigfoot Ballgame,” he wrote.
He received exactly one like.
Genius is not always appreciated in its time.
Only now do we know that in a state where so much of the sports influence is Phil Knight’s, our biggest conundrum was solved by Will Knights.
I sent Knights a message asking him to call me.
When he did, I asked if he remembered coming up with the idea.
“Not even a little bit,” he said.
Knights earned his degree from the University of Evansville in Indiana. He was a double major in finance and, unsurprisingly, marketing. He enjoys playing chess and cooking with his fiancée. He works as a community manager for an online golfing publication.
That’s how he ended up spending a week last year in Bandon. It was his only visit to Oregon.
“But from my experiences there,” he said, “nature and Bigfoot is kind of what Oregon is all about.
You nailed it, Will.
Knights blessed my campaign to move forward with the name.
“Are they, like, having people vote?” he asked.
Oh, no, Will. No vote will be needed once this is brought to the people.
Think of the marketing potential. We all know no name will stick without the strong backing of a sponsor. I propose Yeti. Or Jack Links, they already have Sasquatch on retainer for their jerky ads.
As one person I ran it by suggested, fans who don’t attend the game can host Squatch Parties.
Some have argued that Bigfoot is more of a Washington legend than Oregon. Posh. Tell that to the truck stop owners throughout the state who make a killing on “He’s out there” stickers and “Harry is Real” T-shirts.
Tell that to the folks at the North American Bigfoot Center in Boring or the organizers of the annual Oregon Bigfoot Festival in Troutdale.
Besides, it’s not like ducks and beavers are exclusive to Oregon, either. We just claimed them first. Bigfoot is one mascot we all can share, regardless of whether we bleed yellow and green or orange and black.
“For good or for bad, we have a kind of on and off romantic interest in Sasquatch,” said Mike Parker, the radio voice of Oregon State sports.
I reached out to Parker on Sunday because if this thing is going to take off, it will need the blessing of the two men who will have to say it most frequently.
The night before, I had cornered Ducks play-by-play man Jerry Allen in the Autzen Stadium press box and coaxed from him this endorsement: “I don’t not like it.”
Could Allen see himself saying it? “It seems a little bit awkward in a football game,” he said, “but yeah, it kind of works.”
“You know what? I haven’t heard anything else I’ve liked. Yeah, I’d be open. It’s got a ring to it.”
Parker, who famously attended UO before becoming the voice in Corvallis, proved to be a tougher audience.
When I told him my idea, he sighed sharply. I thought I could hear him rubbing his temples.
“The Bigfoot Ballgame,” he said.
Then more slowly.
“Big Football Game. Big Football Game. Big Football… Say it again?”
I did. So did he.
“It’s clever,” he said. “It’s very clever. I have not heard it before.”
Lately, Parker has been searching for ideas, too. Feels like everyone has. The absence of a name, it turns out, is kind of awkward. For many, it’s been easier just to glance around furtively to check your surroundings, then call it the Civil War anyway.
On ESPN’s broadcast of Oregon State’s win at Arizona State on Saturday, announcer Anish Shoff said his “shock collar” would go off if he used the original name. Color analyst Brock Osweiler lamented there being “a lot of rules in 2022.”
When the game is better known for what it isn’t called than what it is, there’s a problem. It overshadows one of the great rivalries in college sports.
Parker had considered versions that paid homage to the river that links Corvallis and Eugene. He imagined a large oar passed to the winning team each year, the score of the game engraved into the paddle.
“The Oregon Oar War,” Parker suggested. “That’s kind of where my mind has been.”
His daughter has proposed the Kalapuya Classic, as an acknowledgment of the Native American people who lived in the Willamette Valley before white settlers arrived.
Parker’s wife, Missy, joined him in the car. She had been in a pet store buying an ID tag for their puppy.
“Can I get her reaction to what you’re suggesting?” Parker asked.
Missy’s response was tepid.
“Oh,” she said. “I see.”
Missy likes the Willamette Bowl.
But I had started to win over her husband.
“It’s already growing on me very quickly,” he admitted. “I do like it.”
It evokes the Big Game of Stanford and Cal, he said, but with a distinctive Northwest flair.
“I’m not a Sasquatch person per se,” Parker said, “but when you stylize it big football game, that’s different.”
So, there you have it. The perfect name for Oregon and Oregon State’s annual meeting.
Maybe it won’t catch on.
But you can’t say he — I mean it — doesn’t exist.