Friday, February 17, 2012

Oregon Interlude

By Wally Mersereau

The road trip to Oregon, in the green and spacious Willamette Valley with the big river flowing northward through its center, differs from other Stanford road trips because of the extra events involved. No other trip with the team has these extras. There is something about this trip, year after year, that makes it stand out. It’s not about the weather, which is usually murky, durky, dank and drear. For weather, the Arizona trip usually in unmatched and Oregon is not even in the running.

For several years there has been a pre-game meal with Stanford alumni in Eugene. Depending on the time of the game this may be a brunch or dinner. As a traveling fan, your only obligation is to just show up--arrangements are made by the locals. Tomorrow this will be a brunch at a restaurant a short stroll from Matt Arena.

A communal meal in Corvallis before the Oregon State game is more hit or miss because most traveling fans stay in more cosmopolitan Eugene. The Big River restaurant is the most frequent Corvallis venue, featuring seafood and huge desserts. Its drawback is that it doesn’t open until 5 pm and the service for groups is slow, creating anxiety as departure time approaches and the food has not arrived. Last year there was an alumni-organized lunch in Corvallis in a smaller restaurant that was pleasant and more relaxed.

The highlight of any Oregon trip is a meeting with Tara (usually accompanied by Amy as a sidekick and foil) on Friday. In the olden days when the team and most fans stayed at the Valley River Inn, this event was held in front of the ever-burning fireplace in the VRI lobby on Friday evening. When the team moved to the Eugene Hilton downtown, an afternoon dessert function with Tara was organized. After a lapse of a year or two, this year’s trip has Tea with Tara at the Hilton on Friday afternoon.

The format of the Tara meeting is similar to a post-game meeting at Stanford. What distinguishes it is its intimacy, allowing more of an up-close-and-personal flavor and frank discussions. To attend one of these small meetings with Tara is very special. I doubt any other team provides anything similar.

Thirteen Fast Break Club members met with Tara, Amy and Eileen this afternoon at the Hilton. The meeting lasted for an hour. Many topics were discussed, including scheduling of games, possible locations Stanford might go for NCAA Tournament games, the effect of seedings on assigned game locations, regulations and restrictions on hosting NCAA games, yesterday’s OSU game, preparations for tomorrow’s Oregon game, team uniforms and uniform regulations, Tara’s upcoming interview at Gordon Biersch in Palo Alto, what the team did today, what the team schedule will be tomorrow, the performance of individual players and the team as a whole, Matt Arena vs. historic Mac Court, etc., etc.

While we were meeting with Tara, Kate Paye was having a one-on-one session at another table with Amber, watching videos on a laptop, with Kate pointing out specific things on the videos. Tara said similar sessions are held with every player.

This year, for the first time, I am staying in Corvallis. I am finding it pleasant and relaxing and a nice change from more familiar Eugene. Through Yelp I discovered the funky Nearly Normal’s vegetarian restaurant that I can only rave about. Corvallis has a population of about 60,000, compared with about 250,000 in the Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area. Consequently, Corvallis has more of the feeling of a small college town. I recommend it.

I also recommend to readers of this piece that they give consideration to going on the Oregon road trip next year. It’s always fun and interesting and never disappointing. A pleasant adventure in a different part of the world is certain. All you will need to know will be posted in the travel section of the FBC website.

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