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Monday, November 28, 2022

On the Oregon Ducks and ESPN’s Reefer Madness

This isn’t supposed to be surprising. This, of course, is about college students smoking weed. This, after all, is about college football players smoking weed purportedly in large numbers.

“This” is an ESPN The Magazine story that was published online Wednesday as part of a series about the rising use of marijuana among college football players. The story used the University of Oregon team as a case study, interviewing current and former players who claim 40 to 60 percent of the team partakes in smoking the mary jane.

Whoever would have thought people in Eugene, Oregon — the place where there’s a statue dedicated to Ken Kesey and the Grateful Dead made a regular tour stop — like to puff the reefer??? Whoever would have thought a Wiz Khalifa concert was being reenacted in the inner-workings of a college football team???

I know. Shocking.

Now, this story strikes especially close to home for me. I went to school at the UO. I lived in Eugene for four years. I had a front-row seat to the progressive views and counter-culture ways the city fosters. All this adds to the reason why I was not stricken by a blanket of disbelief when ESPN’s story hit the interwebs.

But as an Oregon fan, I can’t help but be subjectively concerned about people overlooking the larger story and only focusing on the Ducks, looking at the team under yet another negative spotlight. This is already a program that doesn’t have the best of reputations off the field. ESPN’s story doesn’t make anything better. But I know people aren’t that naive. At least, I like to hope so. That said, I’m not mad at ESPN. I thought it was a brilliantly written piece by its author Sam Alipour.

Anybody who thinks this was a hatchet job against the Ducks is utterly mistaken. Sadly, even some of Oregon’s own players have felt it was. But the story’s purpose was to bring awareness to a growing issue in all of college football and only used the Oregon football program as a case study. It was a story that could have been written about almost any program in the country, save maybe BYU, to similar results. Even coach Chip Kelly, who went into damage control with his “Above the Influence” PSA Thursday morning speaking to reporters after practice, is smart enough to acknowledge this: “I don’t think there’s a coach in the country… that says, ‘They can’t write that article on us.’”

But is this really a problem? Depends on who you ask. Kelly, who espouses a more conservative attitude, seems to think it’s a problem no matter what. ESPN, the sports arm of Mickey Mouse Inc., seems to think it was enough of a problem to warrant a series of stories on the topic. The players interviewed in the story say smoking only becomes a problem when it affects their play.

Said one unnamed current player in the story: “Some of us smoke, and then we went out and won the Rose Bowl.”

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