It’s Just a Game, Until It’s Not

PORTLAND, Ore. – After a few days of speculation and rumor, Willie Taggart confirmed today he’s ditching Oregon after less than a year to take his ‘dream job’ at Florida State University. Heck, he grew up a Seminole’s fan, so it’s hard to fault the guy for wanting to go back home and work for them.

Probably you don’t care. Most people don’t. After all, we’re talking about a multi-millionaire who gets paid to coach a game. If football were simply canceled, the world would march on without it. Or any other sport, for that matter. Still, the news of Taggart’s departure will lead news casts (including ours) for the next 24 hours. Then we’ll engage in lots of speculation about who might replace him, whether they can keep recruits from flipping, etc., etc., etc.

Of course sports is, at its best, a euphemism for life in general. Plenty of us have probably dated someone who decided to ditch us for a better prospect. Maybe that’s what we’re feeling when we get angry about a coach leaving our school to go to one he likes better. And that’s the crux of the story there. By all accounts, Taggart isn’t going to make more money at FSU. He just liked them better.

Sports stories don’t usually matter in the grand scheme of things. But they do reflect a lot of who we are individually and collectively. We cheer for the underdogs, and we take insults personally. Taggart didn’t just leave Oregon, the school, for a dream job. He left Oregon, the state for Florida, the state. He chose them over us. This time next week, we probably won’t care. But right now it grates on the nerves of our Northwest independence. We bridle at the east coast bias, and get angry at the perceived slight of those who would choose not to stay here. Meanwhile, we also get upset that too many people are moving here from elsewhere.

I guess what I’m saying is, we’re complicated. Life is complicated. And sometimes a sports story lets us project some of those complicated emotions onto something simple and harmless.

And tomorrow, or next week, or next month, we’ll move on. If you haven’t already.