There is nothing like the utter demise of once-proud University of Arkansas football to fuel the rise of satire in a state badly missing Otus the Head Cat.
You measure the health of a culture by its ability to make mean fun of itself through mockery and snark. And Arkansas, I must say, is getting mildly robust.
As the football team gets worse, the sarcasm gets better, either as a coping mechanism or an outlet for individual expression too long suppressed in the Culture of the Oinking God.
I've discovered the sparkle lately mostly in alternative online sites inhabited by talented and irreverent writers. I've not seen it much in the mainstream media.
The regular sports media still seem too beholden to access to the "program" to venture far from coach-centric boosterism and into the kind of black humor I've lapped up lately on a site called Rock City Times and another billing itself as a "Razorback community" and called Arkansas Fight.
When you are a local television station that has given over its sports segment to something called the Pig Trail Nation, you really don't want to bite the tusk that sustains you. You might find yourself actually having to report sports news.
And the newspaper has sportswriters whose job is to remain amiably on site and in touch up on "the hill," which is an assignment best achieved by avoiding relevant questions of the coach at his news conferences such as, "Have you ever actually coached before?" and "Is this how you drove in the left lane on some of those Dallas freeways?" and "Does today's game suggest to you that a run-pass option is better executed by a quarterback who might actually ... you know ... run?" and "Have you considered whether the right thing to do would be to pay back some of your salary?"
A few questions like that and you'd find yourself barred from practices. Unless, wait, you already were.
The reasoning for that, as I understand, is that a team must scheme out its fake punts in secret lest the opponents get wind.
Rock City Times is a fellow named Greg Henderson, who, now that I think of it, has been satirizing competently for years. My personal favorite occasion was when Rock City reported that, at the moment Entergy flipped the switch to light the downtown Little Rock bridges over the Arkansas River, Cammack Village went dark.
Rock City reported this week that the UA had given football coach Chad Morris a two-year contract extension and a $1.25 million annual raise after the coach, a former and could-be-again math teacher, explained to the athletic director that the team was losing by 12.6 points a game this year compared to 13.08 last year. The coach said this year's average deficit is certain to decline over the last three contests because he guarantees wins in those.
Chad Morris also talked himself into the raise, Rock City reported, by explaining that he was bringing in an extraordinary recruit named Chandler Morris.
I visited the Arkansas Fight website after reading a smart and harshly critical serious commentary by a writer named Adam Ford. The piece indicted Morris' coaching with a compelling clarity I haven't seen approximated elsewhere, even in my own live-tweets during games.
Once on the site, I happened upon an item headlined, "University of Arkansas announces $160 million stadium reduction."
The piece reported that the UA Board of Trustees, a panel well-known for football expertise and fiscal restraint, had endorsed a plan to spend $160 million to reduce the seating capacity of Reynolds Razorback Stadium to a more suitable 30,000.
Arkansas Fight further reported--under the byline of Tucker Partridge--that the Hogs would introduce a new fan feature by which game attendees could rent video devices worn over their eyes that would allow them to sit in the few remaining stands during live contests while actually watching the Razorbacks when they were good--in 1964 against Texas, or New Year's Day 1978 against Oklahoma, or on one or two other occasions.
And a postscript ... I just saw that this article had moved on the wire:
"The Little Rock City Board of Directors voted Tuesday night to petition the the state Parks and Tourism Department, which operates the city's venerable War Memorial Stadium, to disinvite the Arkansas football team from its scheduled game against Missouri in that stadium on the afternoon of Nov. 29, the Friday after Thanksgiving.
"Mayor Frank Scott told directors that it was time for Little Rock to look to the future rather than languish in the past, and to wean itself from its once-happy association with a football team practically from Oklahoma.
"The mayor said the school situation had caused entirely enough bad publicity for the city and that the last thing Little Rock needed right now was CBS Sports in town for a Razorback game."
If that's a joke, please understand that I'm just trying to keep up the new generation's irreverence.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at email@example.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 11/07/2019
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