Your Weekend Reader for Sept. 23-24

by | Sep 23, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 0 comments

As you read this, it’s officially fall — the autumnal equinox officially came at 11:50 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22. I know that for many of you, fall is your favorite season — and I can understand why, but first I feel a burning need to ask this question: Where did the summer go?

As we mourn the end of another summer, at least we can console ourselves with stunning fall foliage. OPB has a handy guide to top locations in Oregon to admire the colors of autumn.

In some ways, Corvallis continues to feel like the center of the college football world (at least for those of us who are concerned about the landscape of college athletics in the wake of conference realignment). So it was no surprise that Thursday’s press conference with the presidents and athletic directors for Oregon State University and Washington State University drew national coverage. A little bit lost in the coverage was OSU athletic director Scott Barnes’ suggestion that a promotion/relegation model, like you see in soccer leagues in England, might be worth studying for college athletics. Of course, as Americans, everything we know about promotion and relegation we picked up from “Ted Lasso.”

Under the proposal, written by Boise State University assistant athletic director Michael Walsh, 24 or so Football Bowl Subdivision teams (presumably OSU, WSU and top teams from the so-called Group of Five conferences) would form a new football-only alliance, divided into three tiers. Teams would move up and down between the tiers based on performance: For example, the Tier 2 champion would move into the top tier, and the team at the bottom of Tier 1 would drop down to Tier 2. Presumably, the top Tier 1 team would earn a slot in the College Football Playoff. Revenue would be determined, to some degree, by a team’s success.

Such an alliance could prove a nice harbor for schools with quality football programs which nevertheless haven’t been able to crack the ranks of the Power Five (probably soon to be four) conferences. Members of the alliance would retain their conference affiliations for other sports, which would mean those athletes wouldn’t be subjected to the brutal cross-country travel that goes along with this latest wave of conference realignment. Amanda Christovich of Front Office Sports broke the story about Walsh’s plan, which immediately drew a skeptical reaction from some quarters, as Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press reported.

Of course, one of Saturday’s showcase college football games pits OSU against WSU in Pullman, in the game I’m insisting we call “The Pac-2 Classic.”

In another college football story: The sexual-harassment scandal that appears just about certain to cost Michigan State University football coach Mel Tucker his job has a local connection: Brenda Tracy, who has accused Tucker of sexual harassment, is the woman who was gang-raped by four Oregon State University football players in 1998. In 2014, she came forward about the experience in a remarkable story by John Canzano, then working for The Oregonian/OregonLive. Since then, she has started the nonprofit organization Set the Expectation and frequently addresses professional and college athletes, challenging them to work to end sexual violence.

One more college football story of note: Here’s Tom Jones of The Poynter Institute, writing about USC’s asinine decision to ban a reporter from covering the football team for two weeks. It’s a decision that makes USC look foolish and petty, Jones argues — and it’s hard to disagree.

It’s not all about college football this week, though. Here are other stories this week that caught my eye:

Jon Hetherington of Cottage Grove had a ticket to see Beyonce in concert in Seattle. He had a ticket for a plane ride that would take him to Seattle. There was one problem: When he arrived at the airport in Eugene, Alaska Airlines told him the plane he was going to take to Seattle could not accommodate the electric wheelchair Hetherington, who has cerebral palsy, uses to get around. (It was 4 inches too large to fit in the plane’s cargo hold.) There was not enough time to get Hetherington onto another plane. He missed the show. Bummed out, he posted about the experience on social media. Beyonce’s fans noticed. They called the post to the attention of Beyonce’s management team. You know how the story turns out: Hetherington got to see a Beyonce show in Arlington, Texas. Beyonce’s team made sure transportation wouldn’t be an issue. The New York Times has an engaging story about the incident. Hetherington turns out to be a longtime activist for disability awareness — and a big music fan.

Jessica Bennett of The New York Times spent a year tracking the lives of three 13-year-old girls — and, as part of that deep dive, examined how closely those lives are linked to their cellphones. The story benefits considerably from a remarkable multimedia display.

If you’re just tuning into the increasing likelihood that the federal government will shut down yet again on Oct. 1, here’s a story from Jennifer Shutts of States Newsroom explaining how we got to this point (again) and what’s at stake. (States Newsroom is the parent organization for the Oregon Capital Chronicle, where this story appeared.) In case you’re wondering, Oregon has about 18,700 federal workers.

I looked for something a little lighter in tone to end this week’s Reader. I didn’t find it. Instead, I found this scathing (but viciously funny) piece by Caitlin Flanagan of The Atlantic in which she reacted to news that Congress is relaxing its dress code by suggesting that the institution should go the rest of the way by moving from the Mall to an actual shopping mall. The piece drips with contempt for the current Congress, but I’m not sure these days that that’s not at least partially warranted. (This is the only story in this week’s Reader that is behind a pay wall.)

That’s it for this week. I’ll see you next week, on the flip side of the shutdown. Happy birthday, Shannon!

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