Brought to you this week, for one time only, courtesy of Taylor Dayne, Bartles and Jaymes, and, in the absence of any meaningful game from yesterday to dissect, a look back at some that mattered a little bit more than Alcorn State, and Little Rock's Old Grey Lady that housed them.
Like so many other Arkansans, the first Razorback game I ever attended was played in War Memorial Stadium. The Hogs beat New Mexico 43-25 on November 28, 1987, and I was there. I had just turned six years old, and I went with my father. I recall it was cold and gloomy, but I could not give you one single detail about the game. I remember the day, though. I remember that I had never before seen so many people gathered together in the same place. Never eaten a hot dog on a sesame seed bun or asked for a Coke just so I could take home a stadium cup. I had never before heard such noise as the roar that erupted when a Razorback crossed the goal line. I had never walked so far or sat still for so long or had so much fun being with my dad. Not one detail about the game, but I remember walking back to the car behind the south end zone with thousands of other people and knowing that I wanted to experience that again. I wanted to go back.
I did get to go back. On October 28, 1989, Arkansas beat Heisman Trophy Winner Andre Ware's Houston Cougars 45-39, and I was there. My dad and I rode up with a group from the First United Methodist Church of Camden. We sat in the south end zone, about three rows from the top, and I remember being terrified of falling through the bleachers to my death. I remember turning around and marveling at the scoreboard towering above me, and doing my best to obey each time its rudimentary graphics beseeched me to be louder. I remember being forced to wear a truly awful Razorback toboggan that made my head itch miserably, and that, of course, I would give anything to still have today. I remember Quinn Grovey becoming my first football hero through his play on that very night. I remember the victorious electricity walking out of the south end zone after the game and seeing the joy on my dad's face and knowing that I wanted to experience that again.
I did get to go back. Luckily, I got to go back again and again. Big games and no-names, wins and losses, he kept taking me. Memphis State in the rain. Heath Shuler and Tennessee in the rain. Peyton Manning and Tennessee under the lights. Vanderbilt. Louisiana Tech. Ole Miss. If he would take me, I would go.
Arkansas beat LSU 21-20 on November 29, 2002, and I was there. The Miracle on Markham. I was a senior in college and it's the last time my dad and I have been together inside that stadium. When DeCori Birmingham caught that 31-yard strike from Matt Jones, he put his hands on my shoulders and I put my hands on his shoulders and we jumped up and down in jubilation, shrieking like teenage girls seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. My dad isn't really much of a hugger, but you'd have never known it at that moment. We went to Juanita's and he told the entire restaurant that I had just turned 21 the week before. He bought me a beer and had me lead the hog call, fifteen years and one day after he took me to my first game.
Arkansas beat LSU 31-23 on November 27, 2010 to secure a bid to the Sugar Bowl, and I was there. I sat with my best friend Bryant in the southeast corner of the stadium. Before kickoff, my wife sent me a picture of our four-month old son dressed head-to-toe in Razorback gear, and I teared up as I imagined one day sharing with him the place that has done so much to shape my identity as an Arkansas fan. That game will most likely serve as the last great game at War Memorial Stadium, and what a game it was. Cobi Hamilton's two long first half touchdowns. Knile Davis. 4th and three. Just like that cold and gloomy game in 1987, I walked out of War Memorial Stadium wanting more. Wanting to do that again.
Arkansas beat Alcorn State 52-10 on October 1, 2016, and I was not there. Earlier in the week, I had plans to take my own son, but things didn't work out. He's six, the same age I was when I attended my first game. He is not at all interested in football, but I know he'd love War Memorial Stadium. He loves people and he loves big crowded places and he loves hot dogs. He couldn't care less about football, but he'd love War Memorial Stadium because I love it and he would be there with me, and so he would love it too.
Arkansas will play its final game at War Memorial very soon, and I hope to take my son to a game there before I no longer have the chance. We'll eat hot dogs and do the wave and call the hogs and complain about the clock malfunctioning. We won't care about what colors the seat backs are or how the turf looks or what conditions we must brave to use the bathroom. We won't discuss lost revenue or proxy battles between Central and Northwest Arkansas. We'll just go be together, father and son, at the same place I used to go with my dad to be together. And maybe he'll remember that for the rest of his life, just as I remember my first visit.
Memories won't inflate attendance figures or makeup for lost revenue, but that doesn't make them any less important. It's possible to agree with the writing and still revere the faded, fractured wall on which it's written. War Memorial Stadium has served its purpose and it is time for the Razorbacks to move on, but for me it will be a bittersweet goodbye instead of a dismissive good riddance. It's been the setting for too many great moments in my life for me to look back on it with anything other than fondness.
I'll see y'all next week.
Trent Wooldridge will be that guy with enough bourbon. He loves the S-E-C chant and honks because he hates Texas. He puts honey on his pizza, demands aisle seats, and sees quitting golf as more of a hobby than actually playing golf. Follow @twooldridge and track his quest to transform his six-year-old into a southpaw ace in the bigs.