Chapter 3 - Coming Home
Yeah, I'm coming home
'Cause, I'm just about a moonlight mile on down the road
Down the road, down the road ~ Keith Richards / Mick Jagger
It took a few years, but I realized I needed a diploma to get anywhere in life, and with a little help from my in-laws, I made my way back to the Hill. It sure wasn’t easy, especially in the beginning. I had a son who was going on four and a pregnant wife. My first job back was filling burgers for minimum wage, and we lived in a house that was awful. To call in a tenement would be kind. The only good to come out of that place was a tattoo of a Razorback on my arm. The biker who lived downstairs lost a bar bet, and instead of money, he offered some ink work. I decided I’d always be a fan, so I got my first one. The guy was actually excited because he’d never had a blank canvas before. It wasn’t like I didn’t like where I worked, either, I just had to be there too many hours to make rent and tuition. That, and I got stuck working week-end so the bosses son-in-law could go to football games. Those days were one hell of a rush. The big boss would take the phone off the hook right before halftime, hand us all a beer, and when we were done, that thing never stopped ringing. We’d just finish the halftime rush when the after game calls started. I was just glad we could watch them on television while we worked. And, when the son-in-law tried to swap the schedule so I’d have to work night when the basketball team played, he got denied. Later on I would get to watch plenty of sports, but school came first. There were times I damn near quit, and looked at my left arm. Though I always would end up thinking, damn I’d look stupid with this on me all my life without being a graduate. So it saved me from myself on more than one occasion.
Every Hog fan remembers certain games, and some of us all remember particular games, especially when it comes to Razorback football. Everyone remember the times we’ve beaten Texas, the Miracle on Markham, the big overtime wins, the Hunter Henry lateral. And we remember the bad ones, too. I’ll just say “Stoernover” and leave it at that. There are some games, however, that we remember as personal. I don't necessarily find it odd that the ones I’m pointing out, including that frozen Baylor game, are losses. We can lose a lot. But sometimes it makes the wins sweeter. Not that I wouldn’t like to see a National Championship in football before i die!
I would say the 1990 Houston game affected me in a way that was completely unforeseen, as it would affect how I participated in basketball games. That sounds kind of odd, but hear me out. Now, 1990 was a miserable year to be a Hog football fan. But Houston was a different story. They were playing that run and shoot style, and threw for 450 yards and three touchdowns. When you’re number nine in the country playing a four and two team, you don’t need to run up the score like that. The final was 62-28. Two of their touchdowns were scored in the fourth quarter with the game decided, and I found that downright rude, I don’t care if Klingler wanted a Heisman Trophy. I’m glad Detmer beat you out, too. So how does that relate to basketball? Well, even though we would avenge the loss in football the next year, the seasons different teams would join the Southeast Conference was staggered, so we had them only one more time in Barnhill. Although everyone knew we were leaving, and no one was passing out farewell gifts. It was that spring when I finally had some free time and could go to games. I managed to scrounge a ticket somewhere, since I was still dirt poor, but that was a fun game. There was maybe ten minutes left in the game, and we were comfortably ahead, but I wasn’t satisfied. May - Day was out in full force as sophomores, same with Big O tossing the big lobs down the court. Heck, we’d go to the final four that year and lose to Duke, which stuck in my craw… But I wanted blood! Sure, we’d beat them by double digits, but let’s punish them!
“Run up the score!” I yelled. “ Run up the score!”
“Run up the score!” A group up near the front, with a big redheaded guy leading them chimed in.”
“Run up the score!” I tried one more time, but it had already died.
“”What’d you wan’ ‘em to do agin’?” Some wise ass said a couple seats away. “You heard me.” I retorted coolly.
But, what I realized was that if I wanted to be part of the action, I needed to be down near the front and center of the court reserved for students. When the game was over, I looked for his camouflage hat, which turned out to be his signature for the game, and his bright red hair. When I caught up to him I asked him about being down front, and he told me a few fun things the do, I learned when you had to arrive to get a spot in line, and once people knew you, they might have a spot or a seat for you. The rules were pretty simple, be funny, be creative, be relentless, and slurs were not tolerated, and neither was profanity… unless it was Texas. He was infamous for shouting at Lance Blanks the year before. Apparently, he was waiting for an inbound pass about ten feet away.
“Hey Lance!” He bellowed. “I ****** your mother last night!”
Blanks was so shocked he turned and looked at the fans... Just as the ball was in bounded, which bounced off his face and out of bounds for a turnover.
“And now I just ****** you!” I cannot confirm of deny any of this legend, as I did not witness it, but others vouched for him.
Another one of the games I remember quite well was the Little Rock game against Ole Miss in 1992. You see, my fraternity was removed from campus in the mid-80’s, and I became a member later. One goal I set when I returned was to found a new chapter, and I set out to do just that. I worked with my former pledge trainer and other alumni in the area, and we got help with the initiations that required roping blindfolded pledges down in a cave where it would be held. It was a very proud moment when I was asked to sign the new charter with the founding members, but I do digress. It was that fall, when the new members were already on board, they had found a house, and we had the new pledges!
So they had a nice little party on Friday the night before the game. I would join them for some functions, but no one wants some thirty year old guy hanging around fraternity parties. I had wrangled the day off, and went over to see if anyone wanted to drive to Little Rock. Well, someone had tickets, since we were two and four at the time, it was easy to get them. We needed a car, and finally we found a pledge who would go, but not drive. If fact, he was hungover, so he laid in back seat and buckled himself in with all three belts and went back to sleep. We also found a half full keg still on ice and bubbly. It fit perfectly in the truck when we took out the spare. We were going down the Pig Trail. So who needs a spare, right? I remember we played awful and lost by a couple touchdowns. We also drank a fair bit of beer and I got so tired of those Ole Miss people hootin’ and waving the Rebel flag. I told the pledge to go get one, and he did. Snapped it right off with it in some guys hand and brought it back. The looks on their faces in the car after he did it was so priceless, I’ll never forget it.
After three memorable loses, in 1992 we had a big end to the season. We would only win three games, sure, but before the morons at the South Eastern Conference could screw it up we had a good rivalry started with LSU. The Golden Boot wouldn't come for a couple years, but we had some great Friday before Thanksgiving games. These were easy tickets to get, not only because of our record, but it was supposed to be a real cold one, for the south anyway, and even before game time, the sun was long gone from the west side of the stadium. By halftime, it seemed like like it was gone forever! I had been invited by one of my young fraternity brothers, and being they were all like kid to me, I really didn’t think anything of it when he said he was bringing his little sister and her friend. I assumed he was having to drag out a little tag along, probably because mom and dad furnished the very nice fifty yard line seats. Turns out, my math was way off. Turns out the sister and her friend are twenty or twenty one, and both were stunning. I guess it was current proximity to the stadium and parking arrangements, and not my good looks or charming personality that got me tickets. Either way, it was an unplanned turn of events. It became clear that my young brother was enamored with his little sister’s companion, and it looked quite mutual. They were loaded up for the cold weather, but my crafty young brother, who was now actually twenty four, had a plan. That, is how I ended up drinking a hot butter chocolate alcohol concoction under a quilted blanket, one of two, with the sister. Now, nothing untoward happened, but some places on a body are warmer than others, and that’s just a fact. Aside from snuggling with a beautiful young lady, there was only one other minor event. Some opposing fan has come past us on the way in, two of them was talking trash, because their two wins were better than ours, I guess. I don’t know. But the same couple left early, because they were even worse than us that year, and the final would be 30-6.
“Leaving so soon?” I said. “Stay and tell us about the glory of your two win team!”
“You only have three!” His head whipped around and he stopped and stared.
“Woo wee!” I crowed. “Dat der El Ess an’ You boy can count! But den, we gots fo' afta' tuh-day!”
“**** you!” He yelled. You could almost see him pondering coming after me. Too many clad in red changed his mind.
“That’s right, take your…” I mentioned diseases one might contract were one selling oneself. And perhaps someone selling herself. “...out of here!”
The crowd was laughing so hard at all of this he knew he didn’t have a chance, and just went his way. I watched for the guy as we headed back, still together under the comforter, but he’d gone home. We made it back to their vehicle, stored the gear, and did a quick hug - shake - hug. I told them to drive safe, but we were in the south and an inch of snow was predicted. They had a Jeep with studded tired, and chains if needed. Assured, I headed inside to get warm.
“How was the game?” The wife asked.
“Outstanding!” I replied. “We whooped their ass!”
“Well.” She said cooley. “If I knew you had a date, I might have gone along.”
“That… not my fault” I started, and held my hand about waist high. “Little sister? I had no idea!”
“Right.” She gave me the eye. “Didn’t look little to me!”
“Look on the bright side.” I smiled. “She’s going to be a chiropractor! She can pop my back!”
“We’ll see about that.”
I did, in fact. She was very good at it, and quite professional as well.