By Tom Henry | as published in the June 3 edition of the Blytheville Courier News
“Never try to teach a pig to sing. You waste your time, and you annoy the pig,” Mark Twain
Well, unfortunately I will not take Twain’s advice today. This column is aimed at the Athletic Director of the University of Arkansas, but I have chosen to allow everyone to “listen in.”
I have tried to convince brainwashed Razorbacks fans why they should demand that their worshipped Hogs be forced to play the Arkansas State Red Wolves. Unfortunately they have been drinking the cult-like Kool-Aid for so long that they can’t understand my words as they blankly stare at me and simmer in their barely perceptible “hog calling moans.” So, since that method didn’t work, I will attempt to refute their lame excuses for not doing what is right.
After all, if you really are the better team, then put up or shut up…prove it! Don’t you have a champion’s respect about you? It’s really embarrassing how long you have run from playing us. Most all states have “flagship universities” that play instate competition – but not in Arkansas (See Florida/Florida St./Miami, Clemson/South Carolina, Alabama/Auburn, Mississippi/Mississippi State/Southern Miss, Tennessee/Memphis, Texas/and more than a handful of others, Iowa/Iowa St, Oklahoma/Oklahoma St., Kansas/Kansas St., Kentucky/Louisville, and the list goes on and on and on).
But I hear the wimpy arguments, “We have nothing to prove” as an excuse not to play. Bull. You have everything to prove. No one gets a state championship without having to show up on the field. No one gets bragging rights just because they have a bigger bank account. No one gets to say, “we’re number one” without putting on the cleats. In fact, Razorbacks, you do have plenty to prove.
“We have nothing to gain” – this is also not true. You can finally gain your self-respect and earn your place among men. There is talking the talk and then there is walking the walk. Everyone knows that it is more admirable to stand up and take a lickin’ than to run away from a fight. So, by virtue of stAte calling you out for years and you running…you can finally get self-respect by playing.
“We have everything to lose” – well, if you don’t believe in yourselves enough to think that strapping up, doing what is right, claiming your respect and giving the fans the best possible football experience is gaining…then I have some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you. The only way you lose is by doing two things – not showing up on the field of battle or consistently getting your tail handed to you after years of arrogant presumption as self appointed state champs.
“stAte is not big/good enough to deserve a game” and “if we play them it will weaken our schedule” – Are you kidding me? Have you taken any notice to who you have been playing? I seem to remember, just off the top of my head, an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Citadel and Louisiana-Monroe (by the way, we beat Monroe that same year quite convincingly). I also remember the Hogs playing Western Illinois. Hmmm, who is next…ANC Intramural or Fayetteville Junior High? Playing stAte will not weaken your schedule… still need more proof? The Hogs have played virtually every conference opponent that ASU has had for the past twenty years, but they won’t play the Red Wolves…hmmm.
“stAte is not as good as they think they are” – maybe so. So make us shut our mouths. Prove it to us. Impress us on the field. Dazzle and school us into complete submission…if you can.
We were even given Coach Beliema’s lame excuse that playing each other on the field would cause the two schools to compete for the same players and weaken the fabulous relationship between the two coaching staffs. So be it. Competition is a good thing, always. The better the competition, the stronger the rivalry, the better both teams (and the state) gets. If the rivalry becomes heated enough and competition for high school seniors for next year’s squad becomes intense, then the sport as a whole in Arkansas benefits. Bank accounts at U of A be darned.
Real champions in life, and especially in sports, want the ball when the game is on the line. They are most alive when the test is greatest. They want, no they need, to be pushed to excel. Champions want the ball, but the Razorbacks aren’t champions…not really…they aren’t even the state champions they think they are. At least ASU and UCA will attempt on the field to lay claim to that title, Fayetteville believes that their bank account alone entitles them to the trophy. Shame on you. That is like saying that the richest kid in school should automatically be the starter or all-star, for the team, even if he never suits up to play the game. Get for real.
So the bottom line is this, the traditional arguments against the Razorbacks agreeing to play Arkansas State don’t hold up to scrutiny. Therefore, in my best junior high attitude, I kick a little dirt onto the feet of the Razorback Athletic Director and staff…I draw a line in the turf (at the 50 yard line) and double dog dare you to stop simply being, greedy cowards…strap up, suit up and lets settle this man-to-man on the field! Otherwise, change the mascot from the Arkansas Razorbacks to the Arkansas Chickens.