Top Oregon Sports Stories of 2011

Top Oregon Sports Stories of 2011

Top Oregon Sports Stories of 2011


by Michael Rollins, KGW Staff

Posted on December 20, 2011 at 2:53 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 23 at 3:57 PM

Oregon sports fans rallied around many big stories in 2011, but four especially stood out at

The Oregon Ducks football team took their fans to extreme highs and lows in 2011.

The Blazers turned into a hospital ward in black and red uniform and closed the end of the year with the retirement of an icon.

Grant High graduate Ndamukong Suh made the wrong kind of headlines, getting ejected from a Lions-Green Bay game. He then crashed a car in Portland, telling police one story, witnesses telling KGW a different version.

The unquestioned feel-good sports story of the year came courtesy of the Timbers, who captivated Portlanders in their inaugural season.

Ducks smoke it all, on and off field

The Ducks started the year on a proud but disappointing note with a 22 to 10 loss to Auburn for the national championship. The game was lost on a field goal as time ran out.

They opened the season in a big way, playing LSU at Cowboys Stadium in a nationally televised game. Nike designed new 'Pro-Combat' uniforms.

Duck fans went all out for the game. The loss would define their season in the polls.

Off-the-field problems plagued the Ducks.

Cliff Harris was first suspended, then kicked off the team for a series of problems with marijuana and licensing and insurance lapses. The Oregon State Police captured a sound bite from a car - "we smoked it all" - that became fodder for both Duck fans and their opponents.

What seemed to be inflated fees to a scout who provided reports dubious in their lack of useful information has led to an NCAA investigation. The athletic department denies any wrongdoing.

Oregonians suffering through a horrific economic slump learned that former coach and athletic director Mike Bellotti pulls in nearly $500,000 a year in PERS benefits.

The Rose Bowl reportedly will be the last game for running back LaMichael James. Sources report James will declare himself eligible for the NFL draft. He later denied that a decision had been made.

Lastly, fans were handed a Kafka-esque edict. The "Quackers" lips soundmakers were banned from Autzen Stadium.

Oden continues to be Maypole of Blazer injury woes

The Blazers sputtered through another season, losing to the eventual champion Mavericks in round one.

The true fan sat all the way through Game 5 of that series with Dallas to watch Brandon Roy bring back Portland from a 23-point deficit.

Oden never healed. In fact, he may not play again this coming shortened season. A one-year offer to Oden of $8.8 million by the Blazers was being reviewed by the team.

Oden did get some appreciation - for a comedy sketch on the Jimmy Kimmel show that was a 'Newlywed Game' parody with LaMarcus Aldridge.

Oden received some sage advice from a Blazer icon. Bill Walton told Oden to just quit, take a break, go to Hawaii and re-evaluate his life.

Another Blazer center had a scare. Arvydas Sabonis suffered a heart attack in his home country of Lithuania. Sabonis noted that all that was left that he could do, under doctor's orders, was have sex.

Just months earlier, he had been in Portland, getting fan love for being named to the Hall of Fame. Spare of words, he told Blazer fans "I appreciate you remember me."

The NBA and the Blazers lost a lot of fan love with the lockout that shortened the upcoming season. Portland fans were vocal about the lockout.

The stunner came late in the year, with the announcement that Brandon Roy was retiring from the Blazers.  Roy's two major knee surgeries put him at risk of life-long orthopedic issues.

Suh sells Chryslers, crashes Chevelle, in Portland

Ndamukong Suh started the year on a high note. Chrysler featured the Grant High grad and Detroit Lions lineman in and ad shot in Portland that highlighted his roots to Portland.

The Lions went on an impressive win streak, started losing a bit and Suh was ejected for kicking at a Green Bay offensive lineman on Thanksgiving Day.

Suspended to two games, he returned to Portland and caught the attention of fans, police and vintage car gearheads when Suh crashed a beautiful Chevelle in Old Town.

Suh said he swerved to avoid a taxi. Witnesses later said Suh swerved the truth about accident details.

Timbers Army introduces itself to America

The Portland Timbers kicked off their inaugural season with a 4 to 2 victory over the Chicago Fire. The match was broadcast on ESPN2, which aired all of an a capella version of the 'Star Spangled Banner.'

MLS Commissioner Don Garber was at the match. Earlier, he dedicated an Oregon History Center exhibit honoring the 1975 to 1982 Timbers, a team that etched soccer on the Portland brain.

Timbers Coach John Spencer made one thing clear. His team will make no excuses, and fear no one, especially the crybaby Sounders.

The team missed the playoffs, but 97 percent of Timbers fans renewed season tickets.


Tragic death ends down year for Beavers

Oregon State suffered through a losing season. The demise may have started with the announcement by Jacquizz Rodgers last January that he would head to the NFL. The team suffered a horrific emotional blow in early December with the sudden death of defensive tackle Fred Thompson.

Glencoe High's Ainge admits longtime addictions

Glencoe High star quarterback Erik Ainge, who went on to Tennessee, then the Jets, revealed that he was recovering from heroin, cocaine and alcohol addiction. The abuse began before high school.

Original Nike waffle iron for waffle irons found

Bill Bowerman's family made a startling discovery last spring. The waffle iron used to created the soles for the iconic Nike running shoe was found stashed away in a carport.

Oregon librarian bests 3 million to pick NCAA final four

Diana Inch, a school librarian in Jefferson, was the only person out of three million to pick the final four in a Yahoo contest. She used favorite numbers, letter and animals to choose Butler, Kentucky, UConn and VCU.

Aaron Rodgers went to grade school in Beaverton

Whitford Middle School teachers are Packers fans. More specifically, they are followers of Aaron Rodgers, who attended Beaverton's Whitford School in the mid-90s. Keep an eye on this kid, one of the teachers remembers telling her husband.

Harrington champions safe cycling after Portland collision

Central Catholic, Oregon and several NFL teams but mostly Detroit quarterback Joey Harrington was hit by a car while cycling last summer. In an interview with KGW, he dishes on cycling safety. The pain and injuries from getting hit by a car, he said, were nothing compared to hits he took as a Lions quarterback.