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Bill’s Blog: One state, under Hogs

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Bill’s Blog: One state, under Hogs

SOMEWHERE ALONG THE ROAD TO LITTLE ROCK: Outsiders make fun all they like of the special place the Arkansas Razorbacks hold within this state. Oh, there’s too much emphasis on sports. Or aren’t those folks “down” South so quaint with their love of their college football teams.

They can snicker at lines like “the tie that binds” us together.

Just smile. Nod. And walk on toward the tailgate.

It’s not just an Arkansas thing. It’s a fill-in-the-blank thing wherever people with a passion come together for any event. Folks not in the group never understand.

Watching Thursday night’s Southeastern Conference opener from Starkville is a perfect example. I run into plenty of Hog fans who cannot fathom what the big deal is with all those (choose your expletive here) cowbells. Cowbells. They’re Bulldogs, not Cowboys, the incredulous would say.

That’s a Miss State thing. They don’t understand Woo Pig Sooie.

Our state has a unique advantage over every other member of the SEC. For the 11 other members, there is another school. Or another interest.

For generations, Razorback football brought a state together. Sure, there are other colleges and universities, but for most residents of this state — and the vast majorities of natives — it’s OK to have two teams. The Razorbacks, and whoever the local team would be.

It’s no accident. Call it the Broyles tradition.

In weeks like this one, we are reminded that there are things that really should transcend regions or politics or the things we often find to separate us. All states have traditions that help those issues. Sometimes it’s cities versus the country side. It’s upstate versus downstate. It’s highland against lowland.

So this week, we will all drive to Little Rock. Along the way, we’ll stop at certain towns to visit a special restaurant, or to visit with family or friends that maybe been scattered by life to different parts of Arkansas. We’ll look up and see a former player (hey there, Coach Hatfield) sitting at a table, being a part of that same decades long pilgrimage.

And in two weeks, we’ll all drive to Fayetteville, and similar habits and rituals will be observed.

This weekend takes on a little extra meaning. We pause and reflect on the double meaning of Saturday’s game with Louisiana-Monroe. Not only are we coming together on Patriot’s Day — Sept. 11 — but also at War Memorial Stadium — built to honor the memories of those who sacrificed, some of them the ultimate sacrifice, to allow us to have the privilege.

Two stadiums. One state. Under Hogs — and when we remember — indivisible.

REMEMBERING 9/11: That was an unusual Monday morning in 2001. Walking into the office, I’d heard about the first tower, and the speculation that it was a horrible accident. When the second tower was hit, work stopped as we all looked at the TV and tried to get more information.

The surreal part was our email and phone kept going — and I continued to receive requests for information or feedback on projects. At one point, I got a somewhat terse phone call asking why I hadn’t sent something to one of our athletic department colleagues. The caller was on the road at a meeting, and had not seen a TV in three hours.

“Do you know what has happened this morning?” I finally snapped back. What? Something about planes crashing, but did you see my email? Look, I’ve got to go, we’re trying to help the women’s golf team, as I hung up the phone. About a half hour later, an apologetic call and what can we do to help.

Sometimes in an event like 9/11 there’s nothing you can do. This time, there was.

The national air system shut down stranding the women’s golf team in St. Louis — halfway home from competing at Nebraska. Mild discomfort quickly became terror and panic as the travelers were forced to evacuate the terminals at Lindbergh. The fear was the airport, which also housed a lot of then McDonnell-Douglas Aerospace, might be a target.

With our golfers forced to the curb, we grabbed the department’s 15-passenger van and had two volunteers, Kevin Jones and Tanya Webb, to mount up and make a rescue run from Fayetteville. For the five or so hours it would take to get there, we worked to find a place to shelter the team — quite literally there was no room in the inns around the airport. The thousands of other travelers in the same shape were booking up rental cars and taxis were hard to locate.

About 14 hours later, the team was safe back at home in Fayetteville, much to the relief of the parents of these young women who had been entrusted to our care. Tanya and Kevin would tell you it was no big deal. To those athletes and to those of us who were worrying about them, it was heroic.

It is not FDNY in scale, but it is one of the stories of our little corner of the great national tragedy we remember this weekend.

iHOG 2.0 IS OUT: Fans of the official Razorback iSpace app can now hear football, men’s basketball and baseball streaming live. Just use the RazorVision account you already have for the website, and plug that into the radio module of the new app. The code is faster, and optimized for the new retinal screen of the iPhone 4.

CHECK OUT THE INTERACTIVE BLOG TOMORROW: A record number of Razorback fans joined us on the CoverItLive blog for Tennessee Tech. The link is live today, and will be prominent on the website tomorrow.

Here are some tips for participating — please remember that this is a family-friendly moderated chat. Not all comments get used, and when more than one person has the same question or thought, to keep things moving, we will pick one to represent all.

To get your comments included, please use your real name, and maybe your hometown also. No screen names or handles please.

I will be on the main keyboard from War Memorial, joined by Zach Swartz and Scott Fendley.

We are anticipating a pretty big blog this week with folks staying behind in Fayetteville joining in.

Again, this is another big iHog advantage as the CoverItLive works great within the iPhone. However, if you have a different phone, don’t worry.

It’s lots of fun to watch the game and have the blog open as well. You can ask questions, and I’ll answer them when I can. One thing we don’t answer frequently is a lot of stat questions — that’s what the live stats are for. There’s always a link to them from the blog.

TWITTER FEEDS: This week, @RazorbackRoad takes a back seat to @ArkRazorbacks simply because this is not a Fayetteville home game, and often the info about traffic or parking is also sent through the home event feed. Still, more detail updates come out through @RazorbackRoad and the scoring or quarter score updates through @ArkRazorbacks.

Last week, it was a little hard to tell the difference with all the scoring by the Hogs — a good problem to have, yes?

TWITTIX: Seats for ULM are up again, and be a subscriber to @ArkRazorbacks to know where the seats will be given away. Two are going out Friday evening, and two more on Saturday afternoon close to kickoff.

ON THE ROAD? Yes, the blog will be there for you in Georgia. (And rumor has it, there might even be TwitTix! ) Stay tuned for more details.



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