I don’t know if it is too soon or not but I remember the pop fly foul ball.... Shaddy, Cole and Gates going after it. I had chills going up and down my body because it was FINALLY our time to win a championship in one of the three major sports.
Then, my Razorback soul hit the floor. I remember the moment my father-in-law fell flat on his face and I fell to my knees for minutes in the agony of defeat. As a Hog fan, that’s fully invested in every sport, almost didn’t want to be a fan anymore.
Guess what, I turned my TV on for game three of the CWS knowing that all the momentum we had from the first 17 and 2/3 innings of baseball were gone. You could’ve slapped me in my face throughout the 5-0 loss to the Oregon State Beavers and it would not have phased me. I thought to myself, “I will never see my beloved Razorbacks win a championship.”
Ok, maybe that is a little too far.
The Razorback Baseball program is becoming a juggernaut and they will likely make the tournament and College World Series again.
What about other moments in Razorback history that have made me calloused to losing over time?
I began deeply investing myself in Razorback athletics around the 2002 football season. The Hogs were very lucky to have been able to make it to the SEC Championship game. When they got there, the Georgia Bulldogs were just too much to handle. The Bulldogs has their way with the Hogs all day long resulting in a loss for the Hogs. That’s okay because the Razorbacks finally made it back to the top of the SEC West.
How about that 4-0 start in 2003 with a HUGE win over Texas? Then, all of a sudden it all came apart when the Hogs had back-to-back heartbreaking losses to Auburn and Florida? Yeah, as a sixth grade kid that definitely hurt.
The 2004 loss to Texas really hurt me. Matt Jones was running for his life that night. Holding the football like it was a loaf of bread ultimately cost the Hogs the game. Late in the fourth quarter down two with 2:54 left and the line of scrimmage being the Texas 15 yard line, Jones had the ball stripped out. Texas would recover and my heart would sink. Gosh, that one still hurts to this day.
Let’s move on to a couple of years later. To a winning run of college basketball when it seemed that Arkansas was on its way back to being a factor for yearly NCAA Tournaments.
Arkansas won back-to-back home games against quality teams Alabama and Florida (eventual National Champions). The thrilling comeback win over Alabama capped off by Ronnie Brewer’s game changing And-1 layup and free throw had Bud Walton rocking.Then, came the loss to Bucknell in the NCAA Tournament in 2006. Crap, that sucked the breath out of me. That was 8th grade and that was a tough loss.
Then came the 2006 football season. Arkansas had some life around the program with a 10-1 start to the season. The Razorbacks were poised to get back into the national spotlight and compete for a BCS National Championship. Only to lose their final three games to LSU, Florida (SEC Championship Game) and Wisconsin (coached by future head hog Bret Bielema). That ending sucked.
But, I still had hope that 2007 would be better. And, that season with high hopes and likely one of the best backfields in college football history ended to me when Alabama quarterback, John Parker Wilson lofted a fade route to the back left corner of the endzone to Matt Caddell for the upset win. Ugh, the agony!
Fast forward a week later and the Razorbacks still couldn’t close after a loss to Kentucky 42-29. It didn’t even phase me.
A 9-7 loss to Auburn a few weeks later made me so mad that I remember looking back at the games before it knowing how close the Razorbacks could have been to National Championship contention.
Ok, Jacob. Breathe.
Basketball became terrible at this time. Although, I never missed a game the hurt of each loss made me often ponder the fact that maybe Razorback Basketball is over.
Let’s not forget about the loss to Florida in The Swamp in 2009. Oh, baby I was mad. At that point I realized that Arkansas is the red headed step child of the SEC and the officials will always side with those who have been in the SEC since seemingly the beginning.
The 2010 football game against Alabama hurt badly. Knowing Arkansas was so close to winning over the defending national champion and current number one team in the country. Yeah, I was exhausted after that one.
Then, came the trip to The Plains to face Auburn. (See 2009 Florida to avoid repetition).
2011 was a good season. A winning season that validated to me that Arkansas was on its way up and no one was going to stop them. Then, head coach Bobby Petrino, motorcycle, a former blonde volleyball player and her boyfriend entered the picture. It got ugly. Literally and figuratively.
Basketball was on its way back up at the time with Mike Anderson. Arkansas won in an upset of Michigan and Florida in 2013 inside Bud Walton Arena but they stunk it up in road games. No, I never missed a game but I still remember missing the NCAA Tournament year after year.
The 2014 football season involved a lot of crushing losses. Texas A&M (UGH, they are still losing to a program they dominated in years past), Alabama (because they have become unbeatable. The starts have to align correctly for the Hogs to ever win again), Georgia and Mississippi State. Finally, after beating the life out of LSU and Ole Miss the Hogs would go on the road and loss to the SEC East and the other step child Missouri (still hate them).
2015 was our year... NOPE! Eventual basketball national champion, North Carolina was gifted a win over Arkansas to advance to the Sweet 16.
Bret Bielema mentioned he would, “bring his fullback and kick your ass” to the Texas High School football coaches who predominantly run a spread offenses. Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury drove his spread offense with masterful quarterback, Patrick Mahomes and “kicked the Hogs a**” instead. That was a kick to the throat, gut and everywhere else imaginable.
Then came losses to our bitter enemy Missouri year after year.
Oh, and another loss to North Carolina that was an officiating gaffe-fest. That loss still burns me up.
Also, the Chad Morris era that almost took the “fan” right out of me.
Luckily, now the Razorbacks have plenty of coaches that could lead a red tent revival of sorts atop The Hill of Fayetteville, Arkansas and I am sure enjoying it.
Remember, always be a fan no matter how much defeat hurts. There’s plenty of it for us to start an Arkansas Anonymous group. Just kidding. Kinda.
Once a Razorback always a Razorback.