The Sunday morning phone call from my father has become a staple of our relationship. Every Sunday, like clockwork, he and I discuss the Hogs at length. Every Sunday, win or lose, in season or out of season. No exceptions.
This past Sunday’s call arrived at 8 a.m., as always. Dad hasn’t been a minute late for anything in his entire life.
I’m usually excited to share with him my experience from that weekend’s game. He likes to hear about how the opposing team’s fans were, how loud the stadium was, where and what I ate, etc.
This day was different, though. His 8 a.m. call felt like it was 6 a.m.
I was tired and worn down. I had just witnessed another miserable performance from the Hogs. Another beat down by a team we should have beaten. Another reason to NOT read the Sunday sports page. Another Saturday lunch at a concession stand.
Losing every week can beat you down. So can a three month diet of pork and sweet tea vodka.
“Son,” he said to me, “Why do you and your buddies do this to yourselves?”
“Huh?” I replied, the cowbells still ringing in my ears from the day before in Starkville.
“Why don’t you guys just stay home and relax one weekend, and watch the Hogs on TV?”
Stay home and watch the Hogs on TV? Huh?
My mind immediately went back to the last time that I had watched the Hogs on TV. It was in the aftermath of an ice age/typhoon that passed through Helena, Ark., during this fall’s King Biscuit Blues Festival.
I sat cold and shivering at the Isle of Capri casino bar hoping to find a stray Hog fan to enjoy the game with me. The thought that I was missing my first game in nearly four years only made me feel worse.
I sat there thinking of Craig May, back in the spring when ticket orders were due, calling me three times to ask if I was sure that I wasn’t going. He reminded me that my consecutive game streak, which at that time was second only to his, would come to an end. He was convinced I was joking.
In the past I had always found a way to do the festival and the Hog game in the same weekend. It was a challenge to do both but I had always found a way to make it happen. As proud as I was of my game attendance, I am as equally proud of my attendance at the Biscuit.
Alas, with the game at Auburn this year, I decided that there was just no way to do both. Craig gave it his best shot, but in the end I wouldn’t relent. As cold, wet and miserable as I was that morning in that casino, I knew that I had no one to blame but myself. My time in the army taught me that when one has no one to blame but themselves, then one needs to suck it up and take it like a man.
The Hogs went on to win that morning, and while I spent the afternoon dropping quarters into a laundromat dryer, Tusk to Tail spent the afternoon in Auburn having cocktails in shorts and sunglasses. Lesson learned.
I knew where my father was going with his questions. Perhaps he was right. Why not take a week off?
The Hogs are awful this year, maybe the most disappointing Hog team of my lifetime. The defense is quite possibly the worst 3rd down defense in the history of college football. The offense has only one 3rd and short play in the playbook, which hasn’t worked yet.
I could almost see his point before he had even made it.
“Dad, being a Hog fan this year is like being in the Bloods or the Crips, you gotta get beat to get in and you gotta get beat to get out.”
On a side note, I would like to send a special note to the LSU jackass and his girlfriend who harassed and cursed at my 6-year-old son outside Tiger Stadium last year: Henry is now 7-years old and has earned his black belt in karate since our chance encounter.
He wanted me to let you know that he and I will be at the Tusk to Tailgate all day on Friday. That is assuming, of course, your girlfriend still isn’t restraining you.
Onto our final week’s predictions.
• Predict the final score, LSU @ Arkansas
Sean Casey: Corndogs win 81 to 19.
Jack Clark: There's no way in hell that I will pick LSU to beat the Hogs. Hogs 27-LSU 24.
Dale Cullins: Close for a half. Hogs 17, LSU 34.
Greg Houser: LSU 48, ARK 17.
Craig May: LSU 38 Arkansas 10
David Rice: Ryan Mallet and even the Dick brothers got a win against LSU. I would love to see Tyler Wilson go out a winner too. Unfortunately, Mettenberger should throw twice as many touchdowns. LSU 33, Arkansas 17.
Mark Wagner: LSU 42, Hogs 7
Father Mulcahey: I expect the coaching staff to give a better effort, which along with a home crowd, will help to make a better game than State. I still think LSU will win by 17.
• Who will be the Razorbacks best player this week, and why?
SC: Knile Davis. He will rush for 4 yards on 3 carries during the third Razorback possession.
JC: I think that Ross Rasner will break up a pass.
DC: Cobi plays hard against LSU, and there are some records he wants to break.
GH: Hamilton. He'll make 4 outstanding catches to keep a drive going for one of our last TD's of the year.
CM: The MVP will be the State Troopers who provide John L. Smith and this coaching staff a police escort to the state line after the LSU game is over.
DR: I’ll give Wilson the nod here. He will keep on trying.
MW: Cobi will have our only score with a 65 yard pass play.
• Auburn won the BCS Championship 2 years ago, but probably won't win a single conference game this year. Would you trade an average stretch of 3 Razorback seasons for a championship if you knew it would be followed by 3-9 and a bunch of uncertainty?
SC: I would trade a mythical national championship (all are mythical since polls currently determine the natty title) for three terrible seasons.
JC: I would sell most of Tusk to Tail's children to win a national championship.
DC: No, I think it is important to do it the right way and be there year in and year out.
GH: YES, YES, and YES. Programs are measured by their ability to reach the promise land. If we want to consider ourselves in the same league as an Oklahoma and Tennessee (of which I have no problem establishing our case), then we need to show the world of college football that winning a natty can be accomplished.
CM: There was no better feeling than winning the National Championship in basketball and I’m sure football would be the same. I would trade 3 bad seasons and the uncertainty that Auburn is going through for a National Championship in football for the Razorbacks.
DR: Auburn’s title was already tainted by the Cam Newton scandal, and now they can’t win at all. I think that I would rather be consistently mediocre than go through all of that.
MW: Yes. I want another NC.
FM: I would take a Petrino-like rise of four years over a national championship aberration that was buttressed by a player who was bought and paid for in Cam Newton.
• Last chance to predict the next head coach for Arkansas. Who do you want, and who do you think it will be?
SC: I would like Gundy or Patterson. I think we end up with Franklin or Dykes.
JC: I would like our next coach to be Peterson from Boise St. Interesting that Jeff Long gets a pay raise a week before our new coach will be named. I just hope we hire a winner.
DC: Lots of talk, I'm still hoping for Peterson.
GH: If Jeff Long truly got another million from the Board of Trustees to put us in the 6 million range, then I expect a home run hire. I'm a little too cautious to sound like the homers that keep mentioning guys like Carroll and Gruden, but I would love a hire like that. If none of that happens, then give me Strong for 3 million and we'll have a very solid program.
CM: I think it will be one of the following: Patterson, Franklin, Gundy, Dantonio or Mora. Not a bad coach on the list.
DR: My first pick on this list was Patterson from TCU. I will stick with that, assuming he would come for a reasonable price. The money that Arkansas is rumored to be willing to offer seems extremely risky.
MW: I want Patterson. I think it will be anyone but him since I want him.
FM: My view on the coaching search hasn't changed a lot. Petersen, Patterson. Beware the Sexton client.
• Pick the winners: Florida @ Florida State, South Carolina @ Clemson, Miss St. @ Ole Miss
SC: Florida beats Free Shoe U. Clemson smokes the Gamecocks. Ole Miss played a good game against LSU but came up short, they will have a hangover against State. State grinds the Black Bears.
JC: Florida wins. Clemson wins. Ole Miss too.
DC: FSU is good. FSU 23, Gators 20. I think the South Cackalacka D will slow down Clemson's receivers. USCE 31, Clemson 27. The egg bowl should actually be a good game. Ole Miss 20, MSU 13.
GH: Gators over the Seminoles (Gator D). Gamecocks over Clemson (sticking with the SEC). Bulldogs over the Rebels (I mean Black Bears).
CM: FL over FL State, USC over Clemson, and Ole Miss over MSU.
DR: Florida State, Clemson, and Ole Miss all win.
MW: Florida over FSU, SC over Clemson, Miss St over Ole Miss.
FM: It's been a crazy year. I will pick the ACC schools in a couple of surprise wins, along with Ole Miss.
• Any parting words on this game, season, or coaching search?
SC: What a great season of tailgating. I have no idea how Craig makes all the games, I am humbled. Dale is the perfect host and guide. Greg, a master of the grill. David's sharp wit and great writing made Tusk to Tail a joy. Jack possesses the most sophisticated of tastes in digital art. Mark selflessly took great pictures with nary a complaint and provided sage advice on occasion.
Who am I kidding? They're a bunch of jerks, the season is a dumpster fire and I'm glad I only have 4 more quarters to suffer through. Then I will be ecstatic I won't see any of these jokers until next year. And that goes for Father Whatshisname, too.
DC: Seasons always fly by, and this will be even faster with no bowl game to attend, but the coaching search will heat things up. Assuming it's the home run hire we have been promised, the offseason to Spring Ball will fly by as well, and the Fall of 2013 will be here before we know it.
GH: Welcome Cajuns, I hope you enjoy your win Friday. Our season's only success story is that Freshman got playing time and Tusk to Tail was a blast! Hit that home run, Jeff!
CM: 11:20 kickoffs should be banned by the SEC office.
DR: Tusk to Tail’s introduction began, “The long horrible nightmare is over,” referring to the offseason. Little did we know that the season itself would be worse. Yet I wouldn’t have traded a single minute of it. Hanging out with these guys, watching, discussing, and now writing about Razorback football has been a pleasure.
MW: While this season has been a disaster on the field, being with my fellow Tusk to Tail brothers and other friends makes me wish that this was a year-long occurrence. I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and will see you on Friday.
FM: I am happy we had Petrino as a coach. Despite what I hear from some of the old heads, he left the program in better shape than when he arrived. We are in a position to hire a good coach because of his success while here. We will never know what Petrino would have done this season with the Hogs, or how successful he would have been in the long run had he stayed. All I know is that during his tenure, I loved watching his teams play.
That being said, all that matters now is the new hire. The right hire could put us right back in the thick of things. The wrong hire will cost Long his job and set us back a decade or more. All we can do is wait and hope for the best.
Most importantly, I feel bad for the players. This year painfully reminds me of Quinn Grovey's last year. It just goes to show that in life and in football, things aren't always fair. And if you happen to luck out and get on a roll, you better work hard to enjoy every minute of it. All it takes is a bad turn on a bike, and the world as you know it will come crashing to an end.
Hopefully by next week, we can all unite behind the team and our new coach. After a rough season, I am ready to be optimistic about Razorback football again.