by John Faherty – Jan. 8, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
There are plenty of regular football fans across the country.
They know the stars, they go to some games and watch the others on TV.
Then there are fans of the Auburn Tigers and the Oregon Ducks.
As these people roll into the Valley for Monday's championship game, they arrive with a passion that is both enviable and perhaps a little unsettling.
"We're all so nervous," said Jay Coulter, Auburn Class of '91 and the manager of TrackemTigers .com, an Auburn football website. "The time is passing so slow, I feel like I could just blow up every second of the day."
The intensity is not limited to the good people of Alabama and the competitive Southeastern Conference.
Ducks fans can match them step for step. Devotees will quack at a complete stranger on the streets of Portland or Eugene. The response is not a bewildered look – it's a return quack.
Autzen Stadium, where the team plays in Eugene, has had 74 consecutive sellouts. Capacity at the stadium is 54,000. But devotion to the team and standing-room-only tickets combined to redefine the term "capacity" by averaging 58,398 in six games this year.
Melissa Mehaffey is a double Duck, with a bachelor's degree in 2003 and a master's in 2007. She is also president of the Phoenix chapter of the Oregon Alumni Association. And she loves her Ducks.
"This year has been so much; there is something special about the Ducks," Mehaffey said.
Still, she is conflicted because of her job. She's an event coordinator at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa in Phoenix.
"We are an Auburn hotel, if you can believe it," she said. And her workplace is filling with Tigers fans.
"I will refrain from yelling 'Go, Ducks!' " she said. "I will keep my professional demeanor."
When the Auburn team arrived Monday, it deplaned from a 747 down stairs that were positively presidential. There were nearly 400 people on board, and the school's athletic department said the plane lifted off with 602,000 pounds of people and equipment ranging from pads to training tables to weights.
That was in addition to the two 18-wheelers filled with more equipment that drove out to the desert.
So, exactly why does Auburn football matter so much?
"It's really hard to put into words," said Heidi McHone, 38, who graduated from the school but lives in the Valley.
Did she fall in love with football when she arrived on the campus?
"I was already a football fan when I got there," the South Carolina native said. "Being from the South, it's ingrained."
She has her ticket to the game and is already looking forward to arriving early – very early – for the tailgating.
"There is just so much energy and so many great traditions," she said. "People are really going to see what Auburn football is about."
The schools' fan bases are certainly different. As a Southern school where college football is king, the Auburn fans burn with an intensity. They don't want it, they need it.
"Oh, my goodness, for the state of Alabama, football is a way of life," said Coulter, who runs the fan website. "July, March, we talk about it 365 days a year."
The Ducks fans, perhaps because they are from the Pacific Northwest, seem a bit goofier. They don't need it. But they want it.
"Football here really matters," said Nora Simon, an Oregon student and editor of the campus newspaper, the Oregon Daily Emerald. The paper is producing a book commemorating the team's season and went to talk to the Daisy Ducks, a women's booster club. "All we did was talk about the book, and we sold 200 on the spot," Simon said.
At the Official University of Oregon Pep Rally at the Scottsdale Waterfront on Sunday, Supwhichugirl, a three-man outfit of Oregon alumni that can best be described as a comedy rap group, will perform their "hit" song, "I Love My Ducks (Return of the Quack)."
The song is absurd and addictive, which is clear by the fact that it has more than 1 million hits on YouTube. It includes lyrics about the team and its coach that can be baffling:
Eating chips and dip with the brain Chip Kelly.
Making days happy like Arthur Fonzarelli.
But they are somehow completely irresistible:
Awesome, now we're back in Autzen.
I'm no dentist but our uniforms are flossin'.