Your Weekend Reader for Nov. 25-26

by | Nov 25, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 1 comment

There’s big (and probably bad) news about Oregon State University football this weekend — but, first, in the spirit of Thanksgiving weekend — here’s a word about gratitude:

In the rush of Black Friday, it’s possible that you might already have forgotten that Thanksgiving — the only day of the year dedicated to gratitude — was just last Thursday. In this fascinating piece from The Atlantic, Arthur Brooks reports that researchers are still debating whether gratitude is an actual emotion — but they have no doubt that gratitude reliably increases happiness.

But there’s not much happiness today among OSU football fans:

What potentially could be the last football game played between Oregon State University and the University of Oregon is in the books — and, sadly for Beaver fans, left little doubt about which was the better team: Led by Heisman candidate Bo Nix, the Ducks rolled to a convincing 31-7 victory on Friday.

It was fun to think, for a time, that the 2023 Beavers could beat the odds and play for the Pac-12 championship in the conference’s last year before all the teams except for OSU and Washington State depart for other destinations. Joe Freeman of The Oregonian/Oregon Live summarizes those dreams, and how they’ve been shattered over the last couple of weeks, in this column.

The Beavers had a fine season, going 8-4, and will play in a bowl game (but probably not in a New Year’s Six bowl). But, to my eyes, the team was not as good as last year’s 10-2 team. The defense was not as sharp as last season. And while the Beavers arguably had better quarterback play this season, DJ Uiagalelei did not quite develop into the elite quarterback that many of us had hoped he would be. The Beavers’ inability to have quarterback play at the elite level has been the biggest factor keeping the team from the very top ranks of the conference.

The next two weeks will be critical for the Beavers, especially with the news Saturday morning that OSU coach Jonathan Smith is leaving to be the head coach at Michigan State University. OSU’s athletic director, Scott Barnes, had said that keeping Smith was his top priority, but it looks as if Barnes didn’t have the cards to prevent Smith from jumping to a Power Four conference, especially with so much uncertainty surrounding OSU. You can’t blame Smith for taking the sure bet and going to Michigan State — although, yeah, this is essentially the same argument that Oregon made to explain why it was jumping to the Big 10. (In addition, Smith moving to Michigan State ensures that he gets a chance next season to coach against Oregon; the Spartans will travel to Autzen Stadium in 2024 for a Big 10 Conference game; a game between the Ducks and the Beavers seems unlikely in 2024, since the Ducks already have announced a 13-game schedule.)

Unfortunately, Smith’s departure might be a signal that OSU and WSU’s plans to rebuild the Pac-12 are not as solid as we might have hoped. And it could trigger a flood of Beavers rushing into the transfer portal when it opens Dec. 4, but it could be that Barnes, who said he would immediately launch a national search for a new head coach, still has a card or two up his sleeve.

The one good recent bit of news for OSU football was reported last weekend by Jon Wilner, the best Pac-12 writer in the country, who wrote that OSU and WSU have received assurances from the NCAA that they can continue as the only members of a two-team Pac-12 Conference for two seasons. Wilner reported that the two schools hope to use an estimated $100 million in conference assets and intellectual property value to keep their athletic departments funded at as close to current levels as possible for as long as possible.

Moving onto other topics this weekend:

New York Times reporters and photographers spent two years following some of the nation’s “hotshot” wildfire-fighting crews as they battled fires across the American West. and came back with this compelling report.

Here’s a fun feature from Tom Henderson, writing for The Oregonian about Western Oregon University’s tradition of lighting up a 123-foot giant sequoia on campus. It’s one of the Northwest’s largest Christmas trees, and it’s a tradition that now stretches over a half-century. This year’s tree lighting is set for Dec. 1.

A mysterious respiratory virus has affected more than 200 dogs around the United States so far this year. The official word from the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Oregon State University is that dog owners shouldn’t panic — but they should be sure that pets are up to date on vaccines, including those that protect against various respiratory illnesses. Here’s more on the disease, from the Tribune News Service.

Here’s happier news from the Weekend Reader’s pet desk: We all know that dogs love to fetch. (Well, OK, most dogs.) But it turns out that some cats also like to play fetch — a minority, to be sure, but a bigger minority than you might expect. The Atlantic’s Katherine Wu has the details.

Sometime next week, I’ll once again solicit suggestions from readers for nominations into my completely fictional Holiday Music Hall of Fame — a collection of recordings that are so definitive, so iconic, that it should be illegal for anyone to record that particular song again. (Click here to check out the inductees to date.) In the meantime, here’s The Associated Press offering an assessment of the year’s new holiday music releases; I’m most excited by a collectible vinyl release of Ella Fitzgerald’s classic 1960 holiday album, “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas.” Cher has a Christmas album out this year, and it has a creditable duet with Stevie Wonder on Stevie’s classic “What Christmas Means to Me.”

Hall and Oates have a Christmas album as well, 2006’s “Home for Christmas,” but the duo made other news this week, as Hall sued Oates, alleging a breach of contract. And all this time I thought they were just getting along fine.

Speaking of music, The Rolling Stones have launched a nationwide tour to promote their new album, “Hackney Diamonds.” The tour — and this is absolutely true — is sponsored by AARP. Presale tickets will be available Wednesday, CNN reports.

That’s it for this edition. I’ll see you back here next weekend.

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