Don’t cry for Mark Helfrich’s imminent firing. Focus on the changes you need to make to be just like him.

By Andrew J. Pridgen

So it can be said, barring any minor miracle that involves a DeLorean careening 88 miles per hour on the rain-slicked pavement of the Lone Pine Mall parking lot, Oregon fans will no longer be exposed to the can-you-explain-today’s-Family-Circus-to-me-one-more-time sideline face of Mark Helfrich. An $11.6 million Christmas bonus should hit his US Bank checking just in time to get down to Michael’s for a flash sale on wreath supplies and still have enough left over to not have to worry about updating his LinkedIn till at least March of 2031.

I never liked Helfrich as the head coach in Eugene. I know, that seems easy to say now. But I meant it. I meant it a lot. I meant it here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here. In fact, this site’s first entry and its most-clicked post are both about Helfrich. Helfrich to me = Trump to Russian fake news pop-up blogs. He alone has sent literal hundreds of thousands of visitors here. And for that, I will always be grateful when I gaze into those doleful eyes.

I was contrarian about his coaching stance from the beginning not because Helfrich is a bad guy, but because he was a bad fit. Which is OK. Some jobs you know the minute you walk in on the first day that it’s not going to work out. You talked your way into it during the interview. You told your significant other that night at dinner the people seemed nice and the upside might be huge and in the interim, the benefits are decent and there’s a rumor of a 401 k match.

…But we keep going in these situations because maybe something will change. Maybe they will change. Maybe the real you somehow morph into someone that’s enough.

But it never works out that way. Nope, not ever.

The only difference between you and Helfrich, besides his eight figures of go-away money, is he had to sit behind a microphone and shrug 12 weeks a year in front of cameras and try to make things like, “I love them. They competed their butts off but at the same time it makes it that much harder, that result, that near miss” sound convincing.

Over and over and over again.

Americans are hard-coded to a fault not to give up. But why not give up? It’s OK. You weren’t meant to be a singer, nobody is. You aren’t going to paint a masterpiece, nobody does. Maybe being an account manager isn’t for you after all. Maybe you were just supposed to be an on-time youth soccer coach and get in a fender bender once every three or four years. There’s nothing wrong with that. Those closest to you will remember you fondly for simply putting in the time.

Fox was plugging mightily my Oregon ‘97 classmate Kaitlin Olson’s mid-season replacement sitcom The Mick during the Utah/Colorado game Saturday night. Olson co-produces and stars in the fish-outta-water show about a black sheep auntie who moves to tony Greenwich CT to take care of her bratty niece and nephews (she’s a kind of Fran Drescher for #TrumpsAmerica). She’ll get to do it between season 11 and 12 of Always Sunny. So yeah, a dozen episodes and some cash for the effort. Not a bad call for the off season.

But just from the trailer, you can tell she’s forcing up shots and the project will go the way of The Michael Richards Show or The McLean Stevenson Show (actual shows) …guess only NBC lets you name your vanity sitcom after yourself. It’s going to suck and you won’t remember it until it pops up three years from now on your Netflix recommended for you queue and you’re going to wonder what kind of shit have I watched to bring this into the fold—too many tipsy late-night New Girl viewings perhaps?

But it’s OK. The Mick doesn’t diminish Kaitlin’s other, funnier work, or potential to be funny again. It does not take away who she is or what she’s capable of. If you want redemption that’s immediate, season 9 of Curb Your Enthusiasm is currently in production, so there’s always a chance we’ll see Olson return as Cheryl’s sister Becky.

I guess what I’m saying is for Ducks both famous and not, there is always hope. Because we are the ultimate prize fighters off the mat when things don’t go our way. The reason being, nobody ever prefaces who we are with the school we went to—or gives us that name brand benefit of the doubt. My son had a minor surgery a couple weeks ago and the anesthesiologist was introduced as a guy who went to Stanford, the radiologist, a USC grad. Us Ducks don’t get the presumptive nod that somehow our degree makes us greater than. If we were to get an endorsement, it would go something like, “This is Dr. Pridgen. He went to Oregon. He’s here to take OK care of you.” Oregon grads have to earn respect the way everyone should—through action and merit.

In true Duck fashion, Helfrich clawed his way to the captain’s chair but only did enough to keep it warm once there. I am OK with that, though I will miss writing about him. Polarizing figures are much more compelling when they are sincere. And he was sincere from the first snap to the final whistle.

But I don’t feel too bad for him. In the end, he now can walk away from a child’s game played mostly by minority young men who are taken advantage of by the current system that allows amateur athletes to make billions of dollars for corporate oligarchs, most of whom are of the white, capped-toothed variety. It is a system that if examined without emotion is reprehensible.

Helfrich never bought into the barking sociopath coach routine, some phony molder of men. He was quiet and informed and mostly kind and you saw the results of that on the field. They’ll likely get some goateed and visored bag of cliches who will leverage the new-found position to meet his idol Guy Fieri in the off season. And he may gin up a half dozen or more wins next year and bring Uncle Phil back into the locker room. But in the end, who really gives a shit?

Helfrich, meantime, will have enough post-tax dollars to walk away for good. For less than one million dollars US, he can buy this villa/estate/olive farm in Spain and live happily ever after sitting on his balcony, peeling grapes and watching things grow, not having to pause once to consider what the rest of us are doing back here as we fall further into rancor.

Andrew J. Pridgen is the author ofBurgundy Upholstery Sky which you should purchase for yourself and a friend this holiday season.

 

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