Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Far, Near, and Red All Over

          I don’t think I could ever point to an actual day in which I became a Razorback fan. I have an early memory of a Sunday in the early nineties when we were playing Kentucky in basketball. We got home from Mass and my mom gave my sister and me an assignment: find everything blue in the house and hide it.

       We did. And we were told to answer the phone "Go Hogs" which we still do on game days to this day. If we answer the phone "hello" my mom will hang up and keep calling until we answer it "go hogs." This even still applies to my sister, who is a student at Florida.

         I remember doing a parade around the circle I lived on in Little Rock after we beat Tennessee in football in 1999, giving special attention to the Volunteer fan who lived across the street. I remember despising the one Oklahoma fan in my grade at school. I remember actually waiting on the paper to get there on Monday mornings so I could see the new rankings, no matter how good or bad we were. I was a strange, strange eight year old girl.

          Since my childhood of excessive late-night overtimes and my parents leaving for mysterious weekends in mid-March, being a Razorback fan has become an even more prominent part of my life. I think I realized that this was about more than just my family one night when we were hosting what we had always called a "hog party." Arkansas went to six overtimes with Tennessee that night and I was the only one left inside, glued to the TV as even my dad had abandoned the cause. Then of course there was the time I missed an all-important cotillion to watch the horrendous Arkansas-Georgia SEC championship game in 2002.

           Since then I have lived in Chicago, Washington D.C., and Prague. I spent my freshman year of college at a Jesuit institution in Chicago. One of the first things I did was email the Arkansas Alumni Club in Chicago and got on their e-mail list. I told them I was not a graduate of the school but I was an Arkansan—and that was enough. The few times I was brave enough to use my first fake ID were used to get into bars where the club watched Razorback football that season.

           Going far away has always been what has let me know that coming back home is what matters. After everywhere I’ve been, I will get my bachelors from the U of A in May and I could not be more proud of my school and its athletic department. Arkansans feel differently about their team than almost anyone else. There are no interstate rivalries, to be Arkansan is to know how to call the Hogs—it is a culture all its own.

            I have often said I must have recognized Paul Eells’ voice as well as I recognized my mother’s when I came out of the womb. This was not a plight that I chose. And it is not one that many would have chosen if given the choice, because it’s hard and sometimes it is downright miserable. I was born into it, just like my kids will be. To be a fan of something else would feel foreign and strange. Even my sister the Gator cares more deeply and truly and the Hogs than she ever could about Florida.

             Season like this make me want to turn it off—to just stop caring, to make it all go away. Life is easier when you don’t care. But that’s not an option for Arkansas fans. I’m not sitting here caring about something that is separate from myself. It is within me. It always has been and always will be.

            This past semester, I studied abroad in Prague. In the dorm we lived in, there were about sixty Kansas State students also living there. Although far away in the cold of the Czech Republic, I’m sure no one is too surprised at how many times the words "how bout that Cotton Bowl" came out of my mouth in the course of the semester.

            You can take the girl out of Arkansas, but you can never, ever, ever take the Arkansas out of the girl.

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