Maybe I don’t play as large a role in Bobby Petrino’s life as he does in mine, but I can’t help framing the upcoming season in terms of What It All Means to Me. I began writing a weekly column on the Hogs in 2007, a very eventful year, one that came right after the most hopeful and exciting season in recent memory, or at least since 1998. What followed was one of the messiest divorces in NCAA history, and an awful lot of very public therapy.
Thereafter we Hog fans have been alternately cursed and blessed with interesting times. I covered everything from a fan’s perspective, suffering and rejoicing in public, week in and week out. The thing about suffering, though, is it makes for bad copy. No one wants to relive a bad Saturday. Nobody likes to wallow in self-evident frustration. It’s just bad for the soul.
So lucky me and lucky us, we now have the edge on suffering. Three seasons later and we’re already rounding the last bend on that full circle—helped along by a once-in-a-lifetime transfer, a renewed sense of purpose regarding in-state recruits, and a pervading competence. We’re finally to the place where whatever happens will happen on the field. We can look out there at those players with a hard-earned fondness, a pride that will withstand outcome.
All the condescension wrapped up in the "darkhorse" narrative couldn’t dampen my spirit. Scouts may see us as glorified spoilers, but those same guys don’t know enough to fear Joe Adams and Jarius Wright same as Greg Childs. (We all know with the certainty of faith that Petrino’s fellow coaches will regret leaving our receivers off of the All-SEC team.)
All the shameless baiting in the world won’t get a rise out of me. I'm done with the victim routine. The only way Hog fans could revise their image in the conference was by forging a new sense of self. Mallett hit the perfect note at Media Days and in George Schroeder’s SI piece. He embraces our expectations because he shares them.
I’m downright squirmy with anticipation. This isn’t our last best chance, but it’s our best chance in a while. I look forward to sharing the experience with the other Arkansas Expats—painful as it might be, joyful as it could be.