Originally written on Oregon Sports News  |  Last updated 11/1/14

Admittedly, I frequently write about the Oregon Ducks.  I speak to their performance, I speak to their potential, and I speak often of my opinions regarding the coaching staff and personnel.  I’m not afraid to bang on coaches, lean on a few players from time to time, and criticize what is and/or isn’t going on within or around this state’s most noteworthy sports franchise. (Sorry Blazers, but while the heart and soul of this community, you’re currently not “it.”)  But what I won’t do is take actions or opinions of a minority sample and speak to it as representing the whole.  Something I’ve seen far too much of in recent days.

Shortly following Darron Thomas’ somewhat stunning declaration, a growing handful of columnists have taken to the notion that “Oregon Fan” is angry.  They’re upset about Thomas’ departure and due to such have “taken to the streets.”  They’re lighting up message boards spewing venom at the Ducks’ former signal-caller, cursing his existence and burning his #5 jersey in effigy in an effort to communicate their displeasure, while simultaneously cursing his football future.

WHAT!  (In my best Parrott voice)

I’ll preface by saying I do peruse the message boards.  Be it Oregon, Oregon State, Washington or any other program or team locally tied, I like to keep a finger on the pulse of our most notable fan bases, so at the onset of the Darron Thomas news I went to various local message boards and monitored the response.  Yes, there was negativity and yes, there were a handful of ignoramus’ working overtime making themselves look bad, but the popular opinion they certainly were not.  More notably amongst the ne’er-do-well minority were rational opinions (popular or not) regarding not only Thomas’ professional prospects, but the future of the quarterback position at the University of Oregon.  Most people were mystified by his decision, most people wondered aloud whether it was in his best interest, and most people were looking to the future with either Brian Bennett or Marcus Mariota at the helm, but to assert that the vast majority of Oregon fans were somehow tarring and feathering the now ex-Oregon great would far exceed embellishment.

And Darron Thomas was a “great” Oregon quarterback.  He finished his career with a 23-3 overall record, threw 66 touchdowns to just 17 interceptions, and nearly surpassed 6,000 yards of passing.  He led the 2010 Ducks to an undefeated season and spot in the National Championship Game, the 2011 team to its first Rose Bowl victory in almost a century, and will be remembered as a fearless leader of the Oregon program’s greatest run to date.  I’m familiar with that, and most Oregon fans are as well.

Every circus has its clowns, and message boards are no exception.  Regardless of topic, there are always going to be adverse reactions and unfortunately it’s those reactions that make the most noise.  My contention however is that it’s up to the rational thinkers to filter out that of the irrational, rather than amplify minority fodder.  It’s irresponsible to represent a fraction of the response as popular opinion, and equally irresponsible to ignore majority thinking.

Most Oregon fans understand Thomas’ plight, in spite of what they may think of his decision.  In addition, they appreciate his contribution and wish him well with regards to his quest for a career in the NFL, but they also understand that he wasn’t perfect and that the players behind him offer strengths in areas of Darron’s weaknesses.  That’s not to say they’re shoving him out the door, but more so to say the sky isn’t falling.  Such an acknowledgement isn’t a knock on Darron, but merely a realistic look at the prospects for future success.

In the process of researching for this column, I read the transcripts of three major “Darron Thomas is leaving” articles and documented the responses which followed.  I also read through the threads of arguably the most popular Oregon Duck message board, tallied the comments and filtered into three major categories:

  1. Surprised by his decision
  2. Positive response (Well wishers and thankful for his contribution)
  3. Negative response (Sour grapes)

I looked at over 300 comments from readers/posters in this process and found less than 12% to have responded negatively, 18% merely surprised by his decision, and roughly 70% who offered thanks and appreciation for Mr. Thomas’ two years as the starting signal-caller, and furthermore wished him nothing but the best in his endeavors to become an NFL quarterback.  Does that sound like a fan base eating its young or unappreciative or unsympathetic to the plight of a player headed out of town?  No, and I can’t be convinced otherwise.

I understand that it’s a columnist’s job to have an opinion.  I also understand that it’s his or her job to react to the news with which they cover, but to misrepresent the majority based on a handful of loose cannons is a disservice to the overwhelming bulk of Duck fans who recognize Thomas as a member of the “Duck Family,” and have, are and will treat him accordingly.

Darron Thomas did great things at the University of Oregon.  In his two year tenure as the starting quarterback in Eugene, he won games, delivered in tight spots and gift-wrapped the Rose Bowl Oregon has coveted for nearly a hundred years.  Was he perfect? No.  Is he a first-round draft pick?  Highly unlikely, but he was a winner, never backed down and will forever be remembered by a fan base appreciative of his contribution.

In spite of what people have led you to believe.

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