Monday, August 23, 2010

Ode to Hogs

I don't really stop being an Arkansas Razorbacks football fan during the offseason.  I feel right now like I probably should feel during Advent anticipating Christmas, being a minister and all.  A whole season of exciting games is only two weeks away.  I enjoy the chatter of other excited football fans on a message board, which has become a good stand in for actually being in state and having the random Razorbacks discussion with other Arkansans.
A friend of Lara's was recently baffled by how either of us could consider ourselves fans of the Razorbacks since neither of us went to U of A.  He suggested that we should instead be UTulsa fans or UCLA fans since Lara's PhD is involved in those two institutions since our undergrad didn't have a football team, but some actual connection must be made to the U of A if you have actually attended secondary education and want to cheer for the Hogs.  (his logic holds that high school graduates who never go to college are "allowed" to be fans of the state institution of their home.)   Perhaps his argument is logical, but logic has no basis in college fan-dom.
I remember when we first moved to Oklahoma tuning into to Razorbacks connected us to home as the summer days grew cooler.  I remember staying up until almost 1am watching the Ole Miss game go into 7 overtimes and shouting with a friend on the phone when we finally won it.  I remember two seasons later watching the Hogs take on the Kentucky Wildcats and taking that game into 7 overtimes as well.  (Arkansas owns the title to playing the three longest NCAA football games, including a 2002 6 overtime loss to Tenn. to go with the two 7 overtime victories.
I remember I used to have to go to Hooters at 9am in the morning in Santa Monica to catch the 11am game-time in Arkansas.  (I guess I hadn't discovered pay-per view yet)  These two internet gamblers would be the only other two guys in the place, and they used to marvel at the way the Hooters girls would flirt with me.  I showed them the ring on my finger, and said, "They see this, no doubt.  I'd think they see me and think, 'safe and flirtation starved=good tip.'"
Razorback games are also deeply embedded in my personal history.  They are part of my identity.  I may not have gone to the University (I fell in love with Hendrix College when I attended Governor's school there and met a great new group of people planning to attend there), but I did grow up in Fayetteville and spent many fall afternoons as a 8, 9 and 10 year old trudging up and down the stairs of the bleachers in Razorback stadium with a tray of Cokes strapped around the back of my cub scout kerchief clad neck raising money for scout camp on the Buffalo River.  I'm just old enough to have those last days of the old Southwest Conference embedded in my mind.  I remember I used to get in a rhythm leaning a little bit backwards walking down steps that I couldn't see in front of me for the big metal tray of Cokes.  People would stop me, and I'd pass a commemorative cup their way, and they'd send a couple bucks down the row for me to put in my little canvas pouch.  I enjoyed walking down the steps instead of up them even thought the prospect of falling forward was a bit scarier, because then I could watch the game as I delivered refreshment to the thirsty masses.
When we lived in Los Angeles, I remember watching some games on the couch with a pregnant Lara, and Wesley would jump around in Lara's womb when he'd hear us hooting and hollering about a big play.
We went to San Francisco one year for Thanksgiving, and stayed in this ultra-mod appointed (but cheap b/c it was a like a Euro-hotel with one or two bathrooms on a floor.  We went to a diner in downtown SanFran to get a turkey meal to go, and we watched the Miracle on Markham" (that year we won in dramatic fashion) while reclining on our bed watching a retro, egg shaped television perched on a little table that jutted out of the foot of the bed.  I remember our voices echoing out on the rain washed street as we watched Matt Jones (a run-first option qb (now a receiver in the NFL) make two unusual and unlikely completions to win the game for us in the last seconds of the game. 
When I was in Oxford ('99), I listened to the radio broadcast of the Tennessee game where we avenged the previous year's heartbreaking loss on yahoo radio.  I remember sitting there wondering what kinds of marvelous powers of communication the internet was going to afford  me in my life if I could sit in my roomate's room upstairs on Marlborough road in Oxford listening to Paul Eels call the game through a regional radio broadcast coming through the internet.
Being a Razorback fan is just part of being an Arkansan, I'd say--and you could logically say I'm no longer an Arkansan, since I've spent the past 4 years in Oklahoma, and lived in Oklahoma for another 2 years before that.  So, logically speaking, I'm 3/32nds Californian, 1/8th Missourian, 1/7th Oklahoman,and 22/32nds Arkansan.
Most of these stories share a common thread--being a fan connected me to my home state as I have been living elsewhere.  Fan-dom is a kind of resonating with home.
So, there's my apologia for being a Hog Fan.  Woooo Pig Sooie