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Every season begins with the anthem

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Every season begins with the anthem

Every event in college athletics begins with the National Anthem. As we get ready to begin another Razorback football season, I’m thinking back to one of the worst national anthem I’ve ever witnessed. It happened just over 20 years ago. The opponent shall remain nameless to protect the innocent. The arena was characteristically empty for this particular team at this point in its women’s basketball history. No student section. No band. No fans – I counted about 50 people in the facility. In walks the singer. She begins and quickly begins to sing her own song. Literally. " . . . And the sun, over the mountains . . . " Mountains? Did I hear that right? She sang with such confidence, maybe I heard her wrong. I looked across the floor to the reporter from the NW Arkansas Times that had traveled with us. The grin on his face is growing. "O’re the land of the free, and the land, of the, free." And she was gone. Our journalist friend had taped the last half, because it was too much to believe at the time. Lady’Backs went on to pound the other team, but for years what those of us that were there remembered was the anthem. I recall that time to frame the events of this past week. Here’s the thing about singing the national anthem. It takes nerve. Incredible guts. You don’t just walk out there and do it, and no one who hasn’t walked out in front of an audience and been the soloist can really understand. Back in my college days, one of my j-school teachers and one of the instructors of a coaching class said the exact same thing: don’t criticize until you’ve tried it. In both cases, they were talking about officiating. That’s what led me to officiating junior high basketball for a semester; and getting a real clear understanding. So a young woman stepped to the floor at one of our events this past weekend. She confidently and clearly belted out the first couple of lines and then, it happened. She forgot where she was. She stopped. She turned to the sound op and made a brief icebreaker little joke that he’d jinxed her. And calmly, she restarted the anthem. All was well, until she approached that same spot in the song. The fear came across her face. Like a marathoner at 22 miles, she hit the wall. She gasped. What happened next is what this blog is about. Before she could think about her next move; before she could restart; before she could walk away. The crowd, as if on cue, picked up as one the next word. And they sang together as one with a voice that reached out to lift her up. She joined back in over the PA system, and together, the singer and the crowd completed a stirring opening of the event. As she proudly made her exit, she was patted on the back by many for her courage. No one was upset, in fact, the crowd seemed to understand. These things happen. I would bet she has performed the anthem dozens of times; probably before much larger audiences. Certainly, she will remember that night, but I will too, just not for the same reason. Having been that person who made a public error, I know she will only recall the humiliation. She won’t imagine that I won’t have the same opinion of her. Far from the truth. She’s not the one I’ll think about. It will be the crowd. A group of around a thousand people of all ages and backgrounds. Most of them didn’t know the person sitting next to them. However, for one moment, they came together as one to rescue a person that most of them did not know. They did what we do best in times of trouble, help one and other. Five years ago this weekend, we were all called to help an entire city. For the most part, we did. I sit back and watch the news accounts and the remembrances of Katrina. I don’t dwell on Brownie, or any of the other mistakes that were made. We’ve learned from them. What sticks with me are the volunteers who did what they had to do to help people when they needed it most. When we came together, as one, to lift up the ones that needed our help.

BLOG NEWS THIS WEEK: As you may have noticed, Patrick Crawford has launched the daily Football Notebook to give you links and updates on all things Razorback in the regional and national media. This blog is a curation — a collection of notes on what other people are saying about the 2010 team. We are doing it for you so you can have a one-stop spot to keep up with the many columns and other features written about the Hogs around the country.

EVEN BIGGER NEWS: Within the next 48 hours, a completely new version of the official iSpace application for the Arkansas Razorbacks — iHog 2.0 — will drop in the iTunes store. We’re pretty excited about many of the new features — improved stadium maps, improved parking map of the UA campus for game day, a new layout — oh, forget all that. What you want to know is can it play Chuck Barrett screaming Touchdown Arkansas.

Yes. Yes it can.

The test work in the spring with baseball was a success, and we hope we have the servers and bandwidth in place to support football, men’s basketball and baseball live audio streaming.

While iHog remains a free app, to listen to the live audio stream — just like you would if you were using your regular desktop computer and a browser — you will need to have a RazorVision subscription. To keep things tidy, you must subscribe to RazorVision on-line with your desktop. When you get ready to listen to a streaming audio Razorback event on your iHog 2.0 app, you will be prompted to put in your same user name and password as you would use on the desktop for RazorVision.

So now you have another important reason to consider getting your RazorVision account for the year.

BEWARE OF THE DELAY: In the behind-the-scenes magic that is converting standard radio audio to Flash to Apple to iHog, just like in the spring with baseball, expect a significant lag time — sometimes as much as 20-30 seconds. There is a lot of audio processing going on to get a nice, crisp audio out to the phones through the cellular network. That equals delay.

I remind everyone of this from the spring as we go to the football stadium this fall. While the major carriers (and in this case with iPhone, etc., AT&T) have made some serious upgrades at Reynolds Razorback Stadium to improve reception, do not arrive at Saturday’s game with Tennessee Tech thinking you’ll listen along in the stadium via your iPhone rather than your own radio or one of the Live Sports Radio earpieces. The delay will only upset you.

IN STADIUM, LIVE SPORTS RADIO; ON THE ROAD, iHOG: To be clear, your best experience at the venue — home and road in football — is to have the Live Sports Radio earpiece. (Truth be told, I use one myself in the media area to keep up for the blog.) Go with that, and you will be very happy. However, when you’re traveling on business and you can’t be with the Hogs at the venue, iHog will be your best friend.

SPEAKING OF RAZORVISION: Let me remind you of the long-standing Southeastern Conference policy that states individual institutions CAN NOT stream live video of their games. Never have. Now with the SEC’s Digital Network platform, never will. I say this only to remind those of you that have been calling or emailing over the last couple of weeks to ask "will my RazorVision subscription include football live video" — the answer is no.

Again, no surprise here. You do get the added benefit of having the audio available now on our iSpace devices via iHog 2.0 if you are a RazorVision member.

WHY HAVE IT IN THE FALL?: Well aside from getting live audio via iHog, we’ve got some more big news later this week. OK, I’ll just tell you guys reading the blog. RazorVision begins its own original programing pregame show for all home games, starting this Saturday. The hour-long pregame is a project of the RazorVision Academy — all UA students — and will take the place of our previous streaming of the stadium video board content for the hour prior to kickoff.

Don’t worry, you’ll still get the Go Hogs spell out and see the Razorback Marching Band form the A. The pregame show will include those key elements from the video board, but the hosted show will give you a "Game Day" like rundown of the contest.

This will only be available to RazorVision subscribers.

AND, MORE COVERAGE OF FALL SPORTS: More multi-camera, replay and graphic packages are coming on-line for Razorback soccer and volleyball productions — another reason to have your RazorVision package.



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