Duckfeathers

Kruse, from Grantland: There is next to no reason the University of Oregon should have a good football team. Eugene is a small city and is not near a major media market, there’s very little local college-caliber talent, and for literally 100 years the Ducks did almost nothing but lose. But the past decade and a half has been different. They’ve been to the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, and last year’s national championship game, and they will start this season Saturday night against Louisiana State in Arlington, Texas, ranked third in the country. How did this happen?

At the top of the list of reasons: their uniforms.

A Writer, In His Wife’s Shadow

Andrew Corsello: My wife is radiant. It comes naturally to her. Yes, she’s very beautiful, and that beauty is the first thing people notice and discuss about her.

But hers isn’t the radiance of a model or a starlet; it’s a radiance that emits warmth — love — as well as light.

What Justice Stewart said of obscenity can be said of Dana’s radiance: Words fail, but you know it when you see it. Yup, there it is.

Dana’s in the radiance business. Literally — she’s an Episcopal priest. And while she’s been radiating throughout the three years of our courtship and the 11 of our marriage, something’s changed in the last nine months.

Thanks to this ever-crescendoing glowiness, I am typing these words while looking out at San Francisco Bay from the top floor of a big and beautiful house I could never afford were I actually required to pay for it.

It ought to go without saying that I type with glee. Yes, it ought to. And yet, despite the Jiminy Cricket perched on my shoulder yelling stop the whining! until he’s red in the face, there is a degree to which the bounty of my wife’s radiance has left me feeling, well, a little irradiated.

As well as robbed of one of my favorite punch lines. “And what do you do, Andrew?” I’ve been asked at countless cocktail parties over the years, and if I’d not yet reached that evening’s joke quotient by introducing Dana as “my first wife,” I’d said, “Oh, I’m a preacher’s wife.”

A Long Walk Through A Storm

Tim Loh: BRIDGEPORT — Slumped on a cot at Bassick High School Sunday evening, Maurice Ballestas offered living proof that emergency shelters have open-door policies.

His round-trip bus ticket from Hartford to New York, half used, laid across his backpack. His “Streetwise Southern New England Map,” bought the night before in Stamford, was folded on a blanket. His clothes, 12 hours after he’d stumbled into the shelter, were soaked. His feet ached.

“It was the longest I ever walked,” said the 34-year-old, recalling his 20-mile odyssey from Stamford to Bridgeport that took place as Hurricane Irene closed in on and then buffeted the region. “I’ve pretty much slept all of today.”

On Saturday morning, Ballestas was hoping to spend a day with an old friend. He took a Greyhound bus to New York, arriving at the Port Authority Terminal about 11:30 a.m. He learned that outgoing travel was closing at noon.

‘Half Of My Life Is Waiting’

Eli Saslow (thanks, Mark): German Morales dressed for work in tattered painter’s jeans and a stained white T-shirt, even though he didn’t know when or whether he would paint again.

He tucked a brush into his back left pocket and a rag into his right. He walked outside to the utility truck he had bought with the last money in his family’s emergency fund and called the only employee he had left.

“I’ll let you know if I hear anything,” he said.

He turned the truck radio to a Spanish pop station and checked his cellphone for messages. No new e-mails. No missed calls. “Half of my life is waiting,” he said. He decided to kill time the way he often did, by opening the camera on his phone and looking through dozens of before-and-after photos of jobs he had completed over the past four years.

Family, And The Figure 8

Tony Rehagen: Five miles east of Monument Circle, on the far edge of Irvington, the railroad runs past factories and warehouses and a tiny asphalt racetrack. There is no infield, just a rubber-streaked oval two-tenths of a mile in circumference, little bigger than a hockey rink, surrounded by a wire fence and grandstands of bleachers and folding metal chairs. During the week, the Indianapolis Speedrome stands as empty as many of the abandoned buildings on the industrial east side. But every summer Saturday night, the place comes alive with beer-swilling fans who’ve paid $11 to watch four hours of action, semi-pro drivers trading paint in everything from go-karts to jalopies, all of it just prelude to the mayhem that is the main event, a little-known battle royale of bent metal that may just be auto racing’s truest spectacle: the Figure 8.

Behind Bars

Seth Wickersham: JANUARY 2008, 17 MONTHS TO GO.

Michael Vick arrives at Leavenworth in time for lunch. He’s led by guards to a small cafeteria and left alone, inmate No. 33765-183. A few days earlier, word passed quickly through this Kansas federal prison that Vick would be serving the remainder of his 23-month sentence for dogfighting conspiracy here, making him the most famous athlete ever to pass through its doors. Vick doesn’t pause to scout his new surroundings; he turns around, drops his eyes, grabs a tray and slides down the lunch line. But he feels the stares burning his back, and he hears every whisper. Oh, he’s a small dude. I thought he was bigger.

Vick is handed a plate of pork and a roll. Just as he’s about to face the other inmates, he pauses and thinks, Here we go. He pivots and finally scans the room. Black prisoners sit on one side, whites on the other. A few inmates brazenly eye him; the rest act preoccupied. The black side is full, so Vick, not wanting to make a scene, joins the whites. He says nothing, tries his best to look at nothing and no one. He bites into the pork, but it tastes weird. Not at all like pork.