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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Hog heartbreak, again

by John Brummett | September 27, 2022 at 4:10 a.m.

They are among the defining moments of my life, which is a pitiful thing to say.

College football shouldn't mean so much to a man grown old.

But the old man once was 8. It was 1962. And there came a certain fateful fall Saturday night.

The boy was living in a little flat-top four-room house at the end of a gravel lane out toward Mabelvale. His radio dial came upon the mystical roaring static of a phenomenon coming from a place called War Memorial Stadium, worlds and 15 miles away.

The voice of a man named Bob Cheyne was describing things called Razorbacks. And there were those especially excited shouts, "touchdown Arkansas," at which point the static screeched from the roar of the overjoyed crowd, the touchdowns having been produced by persons called Billy Moore, Jesse Branch and Danny Brabham.

This kid even at 8 had learned a sense of inferiority about himself and his place. "They say we don't wear shoes," his momma had told him. And he didn't much. Did kids in the developed world--Texas and such--run around playing outside in the summer wearing shoes?

Was his natural behavior something primitive to be ridiculed?

But now there was magic coming over a pale-blue clock radio on the kitchen counter. That kid leaned hard into it and beheld the unique explosion of Arkansas accomplishment and celebration.

This was what that thing a year or two before had been about. The youngster was walking with his mom, dad and sister out of the Arkansas State Fair. All of sudden, people around them started making "woopee" sounds and exulting that the Hogs had just beaten somebody.

He asked his dad what that was all about. His dad said it was a silly football game.

His dad had some kind of war-hardened, hard-work, low-wage negativity going on. But he'd mellow. He'd get religion--the main one, the Razorbacks, and the other, Jesus.

One is formed in Arkansas youth to live by this Razorback football. And one doesn't get over it, try as one might.

The boy grew up to cope in bad years using the defense mechanism of becoming a semi-famous Twitter critic of the very cultural force by which his soul was held hostage.

Thus, those aforementioned pitiful three defining moments:

• December 1969, the Razorbacks are playing Texas in the "Great Shootout" with the national championship probably on the line. Texas, which couldn't pass for diddly because it didn't need to considering that it just flat ran over everybody with that Wishbone formation, completes a totally implausible fourth-down bomb. It is caught by a well-covered tight end who hadn't caught a pass since elementary school.

Texas comes back against the Hogs' 14-0 lead to win 15-14.

• The fall of 1998, the Hogs have top-ranked Tennessee beaten at Tennessee's obnoxious big stadium with its checkerboard end zone and "rocky top" racket. There is 1:49 left and the Hogs have possession of the ball around midfield with a 24-22 lead, down from what once was 21-3. Appropriately, they make a bold call to pass the ball in search of a first down that would cement victory.

Quarterback Clint Stoerner gets his leg tangled with an offensive lineman's and steadies himself by placing the ball on the turf. The ball becomes unattended, at which point Tennessee recovers, from which it drives for a winning touchdown.

• And now that steaming pile of injustice Saturday night. About to score, there is a fumble. An Aggie picks it up and gets corralled, his forward progress stopped.

But he gives the ball to a teammate who runs all the way the other way and turns what almost was 21-7 into 14-13. Then, a perfectly fine field-goal kick is foiled at the end when Satan turns the football into a boomerang.

If only that 8-year-old kid had known what was in store, he could have run fast from the coiled rattlesnake disguised as a clock radio.

Now, conditioned by the decades, he knows what will happen next week. He'll work hard to be otherwise busy on engrossing activity that will keep him from watching the game against Alabama. He'll choose that time to seclude himself and write his column for Tuesday, because nothing focuses him like writing a column.

Well, almost nothing.

He knows that the thing about being on the desktop computer writing a column to avoid a Razorback game is that you're always two clicks away from being online to check on Google or Twitter for the score.

The worst thing that could happen would be for the Hogs to be ahead.

A 42-3 Tide lead midway through the third quarter--that would be so much better. He could return to writing.

As a friend once said, "wooo," in Arkansas-speak, means "I," and "pig" means "am," and "sooie" means "somebody."

The full "wooo, pig, sooie, Razorbacks" means "I am somebody choosing to engage weekly in something that is always only a couple of flukes away from breaking my heart."


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.



Print Headline: Hog heartbreak, again

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