Tab's Take: Cotton Bowl Pre-Game

After his excellent commentary before and after the LSU game this fall, we once again turned to one of our favorite commenters, Tab Prewett, to get his thoughts on the Cotton Bowl. So, sit back and enjoy his take on Missouri, bowl traditions and the often-maddening addiction that is being a Razorback fan:

Arkansas versus Missouri in the Cotton Bowl, and I keep asking myself: Why don’t I care? Despite Missouri’s miraculous season, I’ve been mired in a post-LSU ennui, bored by Missouri’s history of mediocrity, and completely uninspired by the prospect of Arkansas losing another bowl game. I’d rather pound a pathetic Notre Dame or take another long shot at beating USC, or even engage damned Texas again instead of play Missouri and its surplus of offensive weapons led by Heisman nominee Chase Daniels. A great game needs a great traditional rival or a championship to play for. This game has neither.2003 Independence Bowl: photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images, from ViewImages.com

Yet, Missouri represents a historical landmark for me, as in September of 1963 my father and I drove to Little Rock and I saw my first Razorback game, against none other than Missouri. Unfortuantely, Arkansas, a team with all the players who would win the 1964 National Championship, lost on a missed extra point 7-6. Skipping ahead four decades, the next time I recall Arkansas playing Missouri (and this is entirely by memory as my catatonia has prevented me from any research) was the 2003 Independence Bowl where Matt Jones and Cedric Cobbs outscored Brad Smith by some unmemorable score. That’s it, no rivalry, no bitter shirt-ripping-off, television-smashing defeats, no party-all-night wins, just two forgettable games and 40 years. That Missouri is not a traditional enemy leaves me without enmity. We might fear the unknown, but we sure don’t hate it.

Still, it is the Cotton Bowl, site of not only the 10-7 win over Nebraska in 1965 where we did secure our only football national championship, but also the Millennium destruction of despicable Texas, 27-6. Nor can we forget our allegiance to Dallas, where Nolan’s "Forty Minutes of Hell" teams romped and dunked their way through several NCAA regionals and NCAA tournaments. For the future we have the much-anticipated eight-year series with Texas A&M which will guarantee the Razorback presence in Dallas will grow even greater.

Dallas and the Cotton Bowl resonate with Razorback tradition, but Missouri, for me, is an uninspiring, if supremely worthy, opponent.

So I still don’t care. Why?

This week I’ve read of Herring’s leadership, Petrino’s interest in recruiting Texas, our underachieving basketball team, McFadden’s possible ineligibility, Felix’s potential return for a senior season, Dick’s improved accuracy, and Missouri’s tall, talented receivers. From all that, yawning, I conclude like everyone else the over-under will be a very interesting wager.

Imagine if the game really mattered, bore some significance. Suppose that, instead of one of a myriad of brain-numbing, sleep-inducing bowl games, we were playing in the equivalent of the NCAA basketball tournament, a single-elimination showdown, winner take all. Why then I’d skip my usual New Year’s Eve party to get some proper sleep in preparation for giving this game the attention it would rightly deserve. The Razorbacks in the NCAA basketball tournament, no matter how bad or good we are, leave us all intoxicated and spell-bound for the three hours . The most extreme example of such Hawg Devotion I recall is a friend of mine in Colorado who paid no attention to his soon-to-be ex-wife slipping out of the house for a late-afternoon tryst with a tango dancer while he watched hypnotized and befuddled as we lost to Bucknell. Of course, the divorce would have been easily digestible had we advanced to the second round.

Yet, no football tournament exists in this era of the BCS charade. But as I write, I come to realize I do care, simply because Arkansas is playing a game. Whether it’s LSU or North Texas, or even Missouri, I’ll watch. Like the answer to the question of why climb mountains, I’ll watch because "it’s there." With a pounding skull massaged by Tylenol and an uneasy stomach soothed by Alka-Seltzer, I’ll wake up early on New Year’s Day anticipating Felix going all the way on the opening kickoff, followed by a Michael Grant interception of Chase Daniel’s first pass.

44 years ago, a lifelong addiction began on a fantastic fall night in Little Rock, a passsion that has brought all of us in Razorback Nation unfathomable frustration along with unrelenting devotion and surprising victories. We’ll watch because the game "is there"; and as an eternal Razorback optimist, I predict a wild, heart-stopping, sans sitting, scoreboard-exploding game, which ends with McFadden leading us to a 42-31 win.

Who knows? I may even hate Chase Daniels by mid-afternoon January 1, 2008.

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