Brought to you one last time in 2016 courtesy of Bob Marley, Tito's Vodka, and the empathetic capacity that comes from being a fan of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Though the team may seize up and shut down like my wife's car on the freeway after her alternator failed at 70 miles per hour, we, the fans, have repetitive defense mechanisms that never falter. Redundancy after redundancy for dealing with this and coming back for more. WE ARE THE NASA SPACE SHUTTLE OF LOSING SPECTACULARLY.
Never constrained by worry, because we already know that the unthinkable is not unthinkable at all, but rather a foregone conclusion. Never wary of overconfidence, because any confidence at all is seen by others as satire anyway. Arkansas fans can watch any train wreck. We can weather any shitstorm. We didn't clutch our chest or hide our face or say "Gosh, can you imagine?" as we watched Bill Buckner or Jean van de Velde or Scott Norwood or any of the other great chokers in sports history, because we don't need to imagine. We know. God, do we know.
I don't want to talk about the football game that was played last night. Not even a little bit, but I guess I have to. 36 rushing yards. Six sacks. The longest rushing play of the night went for ten yards, and came from Austin Allen. THAT, friends, is an offensive line getting its ass handed to it. How is it that something you pride yourself in can be so bad? How is it that something about which you imply "IF NOTHING ELSE, we will be this" can fall so short of its meticulously marketed and cultivated expectations?
Wait. I think there may be a theme here. We should explore that.
Coach Bielema, your team incurred 12 penalties last night to the tune of 75 yards. They gave the ball away four times. How does that align with your Five Edges philosophy?
Coach Bielema, you coached an outgoing senior and team leader that was busted for shoplifting from the sponsor of the football game he was about to play in, who had already given him $450 in goods. Would you call that behavior common or #UNCOMMON?
Coach Bielema, you coached an outgoing senior and team leader that was ejected from the game for spitting at an opposing player. Would you call that behavior common or #UNCOMMON?
The thing about marketing character is that character doesn't put any points on the scoreboard or notches in the win column, and (this is the important part) IS NOT EXCLUSIVE TO YOUR TEAM. Dozens of other programs compete with character without marketing or seeking to capitalize on it, and more than a few manage to win more than Arkansas is winning while they're at it.
When puritanical work ethic is the largest arrow in your quiver, and you get outworked, outcoached, and outclassed in front of the world multiple times in one season, you deserve every derisive smirk, every snarky comment, and every whimsical nickname that comes your way. You can console yourself with the millions you made this season.
And now it's all over. Arkansas completed its 2016 season with a record of 7-6, losing its last two games in identical, embarrassing fashion. There is no enthusiasm from the fan base. There is no momentum in recruiting. There is no upward trend of success. There will be a bigger, better, shinier Razorback Stadium hosting the Hogs in
2017 2018 (it will actually be literally, aptly, under construction in 2017), paid for by a bond that is guaranteed by ticket sales. Saddle up, Coach. The honeymoon is over. The shine is off. The thrill is gone.
I'll see y'all next year.
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.