Have you read any media coverage of the BCS National Championship Game over the past week? If so, you may be surprised to learn that every story you’ve read this week has been produced in a bubble.
Not a literal one, mind you. The fabric needed to cover the J.W. Marriott Camelback Inn Resort in Scottsdale, University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale and the Old Town district of Scottsdale would stretch the limits of textile production.
Figuratively, media coverage exists in a bubble because the game organizers have created the optimal environment for accommodating hundreds of credentialed media members and the storylines they wish to pursue. This is all done neatly, easily and cleanly. Nothing is missed out on, nothing is left behind and everything is backed up.
I wanted to step outside my personal bubble, my personal journalistic comfort zone, on Friday. Naturally, I sought out Chad Delaney.
Delaney is a redshirt freshman wide receiver from the town of Elmira, population 2,615, located 15 miles west of Eugene. He was a 10-time letterman at Elmira High School who walked on to the Ducks this past spring, working with the scout team most often. Throughout Oregon’s preparation, Delaney has been playing the role of Emory Blake, Auburn’s third-leading receiver this season.
Or Number 80. Delaney cared not about learning Blake’s name but about “trying to give the defense a good look.”
Much has been said, for better or for worse, about Oregon football players walking the company line in media interactions. Delaney is no different in his stated goals of helping the team win. For a scout teamer, however, that stated goal is more humbling. Delaney’s job is to impersonate someone else within an opposing scheme.
Scout team work is thankless, for the most part. The Ducks have come under recent scrutiny for having someone who is not as big nor as fast as Cam Newton in Daryle Hawkins impersonating Cam Newton.
Delaney is quick to praise Hawkins’ efforts in practice.
“He’s doing a great job. I think he’s doing the best you could ever ask for,” he said. “At practice sometimes, I look down and I’m like, hey, that looks like something Cam Newton would do. Daryle’s doing a great job giving the defense a great look.”
Scout team work does have its rewards. Sometimes, they go beyond a pat on the back. Delaney caught a pass for two yards in the Ducks’ 72-0 win against New Mexico, the first – and possibly only – catch of his college career.
“Just kind of a dream come true to catch a pass for your hometown team, at Autzen,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for more.”
Elmira enjoys a close relationship with the cultural attractions of Eugene, thanks to proximity. Much of the town is crazy for the Ducks. Delaney has earned near-celebrity status as an Oregon football player. Everyone wants to know something.
“I get a lot of people that I haven’t talked to very much. A lot of people come out of the woodwork and stuff. I kind of like it though just because – I mean, not very many people come from Elmira, so it’s just exciting to know someone. I like it. It’s fun. I like talking to people.”
People ask him questions. About Auburn. About Oregon. About the uniforms – “I’m actually a pretty big fan of these,” Delaney said. “It’s nice to do something new for the big game.” About Cam Newton, and scouting for him, and stopping him. About myriad other subjects.
My final question for Delaney was about what he most looked forward to for Monday. His – and my – last day inside the BCS title game bubble.
“I’ve never been on a stage like this before, so I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “I’m just going to take it all in, take it for what it’s worth, soak in the experience. You don’t know how much time is going to come between experiences like this.”
No, you don’t. The reality of Oregon in the national title game must be taken in, taken for what it’s worth, for as long as possible.
As I write this, it is 2:20 p.m. Mountain time. Twenty-eight hours and 10 minutes from now, Oregon and Auburn will play a game of college football.
My time in the bubble is short. I intend to spend it to the fullest extent. As Chip Kelly said in his press conference, let’s go play.