Falling Off the Razor’s Edge

Sports will break your heart, only to build it back up again
by Nick Bahash

We all have our favorite football team. The one you can’t wait to see play. The one that either leads you to a deep depression or to great elation with a win or a loss. The one that gives you something in common with the person you have nothing in common with. The one that brings thousands together for one cause. Now for most of you, this is probably an NFL team. But I grew up in Arkansas, where there is no pro team. Sure, I had my choice between Dallas or Kansas City, but these teams could never hold a candle to The University of Arkansas Razorbacks. And this goes for the majority of Arkansans. This is the team. This is our team. Nothing beats a Saturday afternoon tailgating in Fayetteville with friends and family followed by a win. Now, the Hogs did have some amazing wins during my time in Arkansas, it’s where I went to college by the way, but there was always a constant every season. The Razorbacks will disappoint you somehow. Every fan knew it. Regardless of the talent, the coaches, or the schedule, we all knew a national championship would somehow slip away.

But this hopelessness was seemingly fading away the past few years under head coach Bobby Petrino. Proof. In 2010, they lost two hard fought games against #1 Alabama and #7 Auburn and made it to the Sugar Bowl, where they barely lost in, again, unbelievable fashion to #6 Ohio State. But, hey, they made it to a BCS bowl game. This was a first. They were on the right path. Fans had legit hopes that a national title was within reach under the helm of Petrino. Then 2011 came. A new season. A new hope. Great expectations. The first SEC game is at #3 Alabama. It’s a loss. Then the last SEC game at #1 LSU. Another loss. The second consecutive season with two losses in the SEC. But this wasn’t so bad because the national championship was between Alabama and LSU. They only lost to the two best teams in the country. And, quarterback Tyler Wilson became the first QB in school history to be named first team All-SEC this year. After a Cotton Bowl win over #8 Kansas State, the stage was set for a championship 2012 season. Petrino had his team ready. Alabama and LSU were gonna be home games. Wilson’s returning with more experience. Their preseason ranking is #10, their best since 1980. Expectations were never higher. Fans were already making arrangements for the title game. Seriously.

How to call the Hogs:

April 1st, 2012. News of a motorcycle crash involving Bobby Petrino hits the media. He suffered some broken ribs and got pretty banged up, but he was fine. He even did a press conference a few days later in a neck brace and all, assuring the people he’d make it back to spring practice in no time. This emboldened the fan base even more. They came together like never before. And, Petrino was cool to the max, riding motorcycles dangerously just like the Fonz. There’s no way the Hogs are losing a game this season. I mean, come on. The Fonz is coaching.

But then comes April 7th. And the name Jessica Dorell shows up out of nowhere. Who is she? What does she have to do with Bobby Petrino? What does she have to do with the accident? The house of cards, as they say, came crashing down. Bobby hired Jessica, the 25-year-old, former Razorback volleyball player as his student athlete coordinator on March 28th. Oh, I forgot to mention they were having an affair. Oh, I also forgot to mention she was engaged to another athletic department employee. Their wedding was planned for June. Oh, and Bobby now said she was his passenger on the motorcycle. He lied when he told everyone he was alone on the bike at the press conference. To make things more disgusting, Jessica is the same age as his oldest daughter. I will no longer put him in the same league as the Fonz. Sure, the Fonz would ride his motorcycle with a younger babe on back, but not if he was married. The Fonz has class.

It’s now April 10th. And yea, Petrino’s fired. Which makes sense, and is justified. But there was a bit of an outcry to keep him aboard. I mean, he is the coach that’ll lead us to a championship. Seriously, who cares about personal stuff? All that matters is winning games. Life isn’t any bigger than that. To be fair, a lot of fans were glad to get rid of him and were still hopeful for the upcoming season. The entire team was still intact. We still had this. Go Hogs!

Here’s an awesome animation video on the whole scandal:

April 23rd. John L. Smith is hired as head coach, signing a 10-month contract worth $850,000. He coached with Petrino at Arkansas, Michigan State, Louisville and Utah State. This is good. The team knows him since he had been their special teams coach the past three seasons. Plus, he was the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2003. Everything’s gonna be fine. Knile Davis, a hopeful Heisman contender, tweeted “The happiest day of my life. Hearing that John L. Smith is coming back to be our head coach.” The only thing to worry about now is making sure you have a great spot to tailgate before each win in this undefeated season. Go Hogs!

September 1st finally rolls around. The season opener against Jacksonville State. Yea, this team sucks and the University pays them to come play the Hogs, but it’s the start of glory. And it’s an easy win. Next stop, #1 Alabama at home. Well, the next game is LA-Monroe (ULM), but that doesn’t count. It’ll be another easy win. The fans are preparing for the Alabama game. ESPN is coming to Fayetteville to host GameDay. All Arkansas has to do is win this and they’re set for that elusive national championship. Go Hogs!

Quick pre-Alabama recap. It’s September 8th. The Hogs host ULM in Little Rock. In the first half, Tyler Wilson gets hit hard, suffers a concussion and has to sit out the rest of the game. But, no worries, early in the second half, backup Brandon Allen throws for a TD that makes the score 24-7. This game is over, right? Let’s fast forward. The game’s now tied 28-28 and going to overtime. The Hogs kick a field goal. ULM scores a touchdown. Arkansas loses 34-31. Wait, what? The season, hope, and most fan’s lives are ruined. How the hell could the #8 Razorbacks lose at home to ULM? Petrino would never have let this happen. Go Hogs?

A fan’s reaction to the loss:

And then after the embarrassing 52-0 loss at home to Alabama, “Bring Petrino back,” stirrings were, well, stirring. To really make things worse, this was the first time since 1966 that the Hogs were held scoreless on their home field. Ok, we’re just gonna fast forward to November 17th where the Hogs lose on the road to Mississippi State 45-14. With this loss, they have no chance at a bowl game.

From top ten to no bowl. From two losses in the SEC to only two wins in the SEC this season. Have teams done this before? Have expectations been dismantled so quickly? I’m sure. But for the Razorback fans, this is impossible. This is insanely heartbreaking. This was the year. All the pieces finally fell into place. All those years of waiting, all the years of almost, came down to a season that can only be described as historic in its disappointment. College football is what everyone looks forward to. How could this happen? Why did this happen? Was it Petrino? Was it Smith? Was is the Wilson concussion? Does it even matter? It’s all over.

A better question. Why do we care so much when something like this happens? I mean, we let our team dictate our lives and how we feel. Yea, it’s passion and it’s fun. But it’s also basing a lot of ourselves on something that will never satisfy. It’s blinding submitting ourselves to something completely out of our control. Regardless of the season, winning or losing, champions or not, our expectations will always remain unreachable. Why? Because there’s always another game. There’s always another season. And it is a game. Sure, we enjoy it. But we also forget that that’s really all it’s there for. To enjoy. Not to live and die for. To enjoy. The lesson we all need to learn from this is… Oh, what am I saying? Next year is the year. We’ll get an awesome coach, the young talent is maturing quickly, and I reserved a prime tailgating location. I’m 100 percent certain this will be the year. Am I right, Razorback fans? Go Hogs!

If you could do this in real life, you'd dress however you want, too.

Repulsor rays! This movie really does have everything!

Nick Bahash is incredibly something? He and his life’s work can be found here. He also twitters with the worst of them. 

That delightful moment when your half-empty beer becomes a "Hooray! Prohibition is repealed!" celebratory drink

That delightful moment when your half-empty beer becomes a “Hooray! Prohibition is repealed!” celebratory drink.

Nick previously interviewed director Ben Popik about indie film The Exquisite Corpse Project. And, like booze? Check out how Benton County finally beat prohibition.

More from Nick Bahash

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