Saturday, October 25, 2008

Arkansas loses -- again

Yes, it's true -- the Arkansas Razorbacks lost to the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday by the score of 23-21.

That puts Arkansas' record at 3-5 (1-4 in the SEC) and Ole Miss at 4-4 (2-3 in the SEC). I won't even pretend to claim this was a monumental battle in the SEC West because the truth is that both teams suck this year and are going nowhere. If you want to read a detailed report of this game, you can find a good recap right here.

No, what' s more important is that this game marked the return of Arkansas' immediate head coach, Houston Nutt, to the Natural State. Nutt, by the way, is that charming figure in all his glory in the photo at the top of this post.

Nutt was here for 10 years and a lot of us in this state came to hate him. He was replaced by Bobby Petrino who is busily dealing with the mess Nutt left. Petrino has a young team with a shaky quarterback, a secondary that lacks confidence and an offensive line that is porous on a good day.

What irritated me last year when the buzzards were circling around Nutt and has bugged me over the past week is that there are still members of the press who feel bad for poor, picked on Houston. The worst of the lot remains Gregg Doyel, who's latest bit of ass-kissery can be found right here.

Comments from Doyel and his ilk reinforce my notion that people who are wholly unfamiliar with a situation ought to shut the hell up about it. Frankly, I'm glad we're rid of a coach who comes across as a subliterate hick every time he opens his fat mouth, manages to lose bowl games to scrubby teams such as UNLV (the Hogs completely folded in 2000 in the Las Vegas bowl against that team) and consistently kept Arkansas in the middle of the pack in the SEC.

Most of the Nutt apologists seem to hit on the issue that Arkansas kind of sucks, so we're fools to expect to do well at anything. In other words, Nutt might not be great, but he's the best we can do so we should have been nicer to him. Yes, we hear things such as "Nutt did less with more" from his defenders, and I'm sick of it.

I'm sick of it for a couple of reasons. First of all, Fayetteville isn't a backwater and is, in fact, a very nice, small Southern city. I'm certain it's as least as great a place to be as Lincoln, Neb., or Norman, Okla., but you didn't see the colleges in those towns settle for second best. No, the universities of Nebraska and Oklahoma built solid programs because they wanted solid programs and didn't give a damn about where those colleges were located. Top-notch players line up to go to Oklahoma and lined up at one time to go to Nebraska because they were winning programs that were nationally competitive.

There's no reason Arkansas can't establish a winning tradition, as well. The University of Arkansas simply wasn't going to get there with Nutt. He couldn't recruit worth a damn and he's a fair-to-middling coach at best.

Less with more? Let me explain that sentiment away like this. Arkansas had the best backfield in the nation last year with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. The Hogs went nowhere with those two backs, who are rookies in the NFL and have turned heads this year.

Nutt replaced Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss, a coach who couldn't win games but could recruit extremely well. Ole Miss is loaded with more talent than that school has seen for years, yet the team is 2-3 in the SEC and just had trouble pulling off a win over the worst Razorbacks club in terms of talent and experience that has taken the field in over a decade.

And that, folks, is why Nutt was run out of the state. His teams will pull of an upset every now and again, but he'll never coach a consistent, upper-tier team in the SEC or any other major conference.

The national sports writers that are in love with the guy need to shut their damned mouths about Nutt's history at Arkansas. We're well rid of him, and we don't need anyone to tell us we made a mistake. We didn't. We're right, they're wrong and they need to keep their noses out of our business.

To read about one of the few Benton Panthers' victories this season, go right here!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How to make soccer popular in the U.S. (Part 1)

Americans, as a whole, have never embraced soccer.

My brother and I were discussing that just the other night. Now my little brother left Arkansas a few years ago and headed to North Carolina to establish his career as an optometrist. Henceforth, then, I shall refer to him as The Defector.

Anyway, The Defector and I came up with a few simple rules changes that will help soccer achieve popularity here in the United States. When The Hawg and The Defector put their minds to something, you can just bet that sheer genius results.

The problem, as we figure it, is two-fold for soccer. First of all, we've already got a couple of slow moving, boring games in the U.S. -- baseball and pro basketball during the regular season (we all know those NBA fellows run at about half speed until they get to the playoffs, right?) I love baseball, but the pace is decidedly slow.

Soccer has the same problem -- pass, pass, kick, pass, shoot on goal, miss, kick, kick, pass. Yes, it goes on forever and scoring is rare. If you want methodical strategy and a relaxed pace, baseball is your game here. For the people who can't handle all the fun and excitement of baseball, you've got golf. I won't really address golf here. Golf on television sucks.

Second, soccer has a lot to compete with, doesn't it? Football, baseball, hockey, basketball, NASCAR, golf, arena league football, tennis -- the list goes on and on. In order to compete, a sport really has to stand out from everything else, right?

The Defector and I have come up with a few, simple modifications to make soccer the fun, riot-inducing game we know it can be. Here, briefly, are the suggested changes that will make soccer as popular in the U.S. as it is in the rest of the world:

Tripping and kicking are legal

That's right. Players are allowed -- hell, encouraged, to trip and kick each other. What could be more exciting than that? No longer will the player he purposefully trips an opponent be greeted with some sissy referee waving a little card around. No, that player will be cheered!

Just imagine. Player A is kicking a ball down the field. Player B arrives, trips Player A and then steals the ball. What's more, Player B pauses long enough to kick Player A when he's down. Who wouldn't get excited over that?

Of course, players would be discouraged from using their hands -- that's just keeping with tradition. Still, just about all kinds of contact would be allowed, yet outright punching would be discouraged.

The key word here, of course, is discouraged -- punching wouldn't be illegal per se, but one player hitting another would lead to some nasty consequences that would thrill audiences but likely run up players' hospital bills. What's that consequence? The mandatory brawl.

Mandatory brawling

So, let's say one player does punch another. What happens? Why, the mandatory brawl rule comes into play. As soon as one player punches another (with the exception of goalies -- more on that in a bit), both teams are required to fight each other.

Yes, as soon as a punch is thrown, a bench-clearing brawl is to take place immediately. Any players that don't join in the brawl are heavily fined and the team with the most number of players not participating in the fight automatically forfeits the game.

Goals and goalies

One of the major problems with soccer, of course, is that not enough points are scored. Everyone loves to see high-scoring games, after all. Just look at how much people prefer home runs in baseball to the "old" game in which teams strategically hit singles and doubles in order to advance runners.

So, we make the goals in soccer big. Really big. Big enough to cover the entire end of the field, in fact. Yes, we'll see plenty of goals scored then.

Ah, but we need more people to defend those goals, right? So we have two goalies instead of one and those goalies have an additional ability -- they can punch other players with no consequence. Goalies have always been able to use their hands, after all, so let's take that ability to the logical extreme.

Taunting and celebrating

To hell with good sportsmanship. Under the proposed The Hawg/The Defector rules, players will be encouraged to taunt each other. Going back to our Player A/Player B example, let's say that Player B wants to gloat a bit over his victory.

"You suck and your mother is a filthy whore!" Player B yells as Player A is lying on the ground.

There's no problem at all there. In fact, if fans are lucky, Player A would get angry, get off the ground and punch Player B, thus bringing the mandatory brawling rule into play and giving fans a real treat.

Also, players are more than free to engage in excessive celebrations after scoring goals. They can sing, dance and openly mock the other team. Riling the opposing team will likely result in punches being thrown often, thus enacting our mandatory brawling rule once again.


If these rules were put in place for soccer in the U.S., you'd players would become celebrities over night and the sport would start to dominate in this country.

Yes, The Hawg and The Defector may have just saved soccer's future in America. Hopefully, we'll be compensated well as soon as our plan is enacted. Moreover, those soccer riots in other countries will look like tea parties compared to the outright wars fans will start here as they react emotionally to the extreme violence on the field.

Want more nonsense? Check out Part 2 by clicking right here!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Worldess Wednesday -- The Call!

Ah, there are times when The Hawg just misses the 1980s and that has a lot to do with the music back then.

Here's one from The Call from way on back in 1983. There was a great band that never got the credit it deserved, and "The Walls Came Down" was the best thing the Call recorded.

Turn up those speakers, enjoy, and check out the other Wordless Wednesday participants (or submit something of your own!) when you're done listening.

Monday, October 20, 2008

...And Tuesday was always A-Team Day!

Let me tell you folks something -- approaching middle age sucks.

I don't give a damn for it, in fact. Furthermore I've gotten sick of people laying one of that insufferable, annoying shred of pop philosophy on me -- "Well, it beats the alternative."

If I hear that one more time, I may haul off and pop the alleged philosopher who's spouting that thread worn nonsense. The Hawg doesn't like aging one bit and I'm mad about it. So there.

I turn 40-years-old next year and was discussing aging with a friend of mine from college not long ago. We were talking about friends who have been divorced a couple of times, classmates that have dropped dead, the fact that most everyone we know seems to have wound up with one health problem or another since hitting 30-years-old and other cheery topics. We sounded like two old hens who were combing through the obituaries and checking to see who died while carping about our latest surgeries.

He said, "Ethan, it's ridiculous that we've gotten this old."

I agree.

Here's the thing. I'm looking forward to getting old as you can retire when you're old. You can be a raging eccentric when you're old and no one cares. Yes, I'll be the guy wearing a hunter's orange vest, a pair of shorts with black, knee-high socks and walking a little dog on a thin red leash. I might even grow a flowing ZZ-Top beard and loudly gripe about the government at the Waffle House every morning. No one will say a blasted thing to me about my erratic behavior, either, and I wouldn't care if they did.

Ah, but this middle age stuff is rather like being in limbo. You still feel young, see, but your body tells you that's a bunch of crap. I look like an idiot banging on my Fender Deluxe Stratocaster and churning out distorted barre chords while pausing long enough to pull a wave of fresh feedback out of my amp. I was setting up a tennis game with a friend of mine not long ago and we were both feeling too down to schedule anything for at least a couple of weeks (he griped about his bad back, I groaned about ulcerative colitis and we both realized things had changed for us since high school). Fortunately, most of the people I've known for years who are approaching middle age are about as bewildered about it all as I am.

One thing that happens when you get older is that you get downright sentimental about your childhood. Lately, for some reason, I've been thinking about those somewhat carefree days in junior high when every Tuesday was A-Team Day.

Ah, yes. I would wander around throughout the day at Eastside Junior High in Benton, Ark., just waiting for Tuesday night as I would get to see those fun-loving mercenaries from the A-Team evade the military police and right wrongs. The early 1980s were a golden time, indeed, and I'll fight anyone who says a cross word about the A-Team. Don't be like a friend of mine who referred to it as the Gay Team just to rile me. That's not cool at all.

If you're not familiar with the A-Team, I'm amazed at your lack of knowledge of our great pop culture. Click right here (in shame!) and educate yourself.

Yes, B.A. was always irritated by the crazy fool Murdock, Hannibal loved it when a plan came together and that suave Face was always running one con or another. It was all great fun and I loved every episode.

Was it junk television? Of course it was. Regardless, there's something to be said about a show that represented the best of 1980s escapism.

Did the fun-loving lads in the A-Team sit behind a desk while wearing suits and shuffling papers around all day long? Hell no! They wore fatigues, carried guns and their office was a ridiculously customized van. How do you like them apples?

Did the A-Team bow to authority or compromise their beliefs in hopes of staying employed? No! The stayed one step ahead of the law and ran around the world correcting wrongs and shooting up things.

The lads in the A-Team didn't get stuck in ruts and there wasn't a problem in the world that couldn't be solved with either automatic weapons fire, fisticuffs or the sheer innovation that allowed them to do things like rummage around in an abandoned garage for spare parts and build a Sherman tank out of rusty sheet metal, some coat hangers and spit.

What brought on all this decidedly shallow introspection? I was putting together an icon for another blog I run -- The All Arkie Army -- when I got the impish idea of modeling it after the A-Team visual at the first of every show. Go ahead and have a look. See that stenciled "A" on a red background? That's all A-Team, baby.

I also decided I'd head over to eBay before long and pick up those Marvel A-Team comic books that were around for just a bit in the 1980s. Yes, as soon as my Google Adsense account hits $100 (quit laughing -- it'll get there one day) I'll be blowing some of that fat (thin?) cash on all kinds of junk as that will be irresponsible, guilt-free money. A-Team comic books will certainly be included in the pile of loot I'll get with all that Adsense cash.

Now, don't go getting the idea that The Hawg is broke. I make a pretty good living, but we're building up our savings at Casa de Hawg because we've got this wacky notion that having some money around things like retirement and sending the kids to college is a good idea. Running around and buying junk seems, well, inappropriate in that setting. Ah, but Adsense cash is completely guilt-free, so why not go nuts, yeah?

By the way, does anyone really go and click on those Adsense ads? If anyone has any success stories about how Adsense worked for them, I'd love to hear them. I've been stuck at around $80 since the first of October and have gotten one whole ad click this entire month. I'd be amazed if Adsense worked terribly well for anyone, frankly, but I suppose there are some people out there who love it.

Oddly, thinking back on those A-Team days made me realize that I had a pretty great childhood. While some kids were dealing with divorces, abusive parents, poverty, ostracism and the other things that plague youngsters, I had it pretty good.

Ultimately, I hope my children look back on their childhoods and get as sentimental as I have been lately. Only time will tell, I suppose.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hogs lose a heartbreaker

Everyone but the most deluded Arkansas Razorbacks fans knew that the Hogs were going to have a terrible season.

That knowledge didn't make the Hogs' 21-20 loss to Kentucky on Saturday any easier. Why? The Razorbacks had that game won -- the team had a 13 point lead with 5 minutes left in the game and blew it.

That's right -- the team absolutely folded and Kentucky won. How the hell do you blow a 13-point lead in the last few minutes of a game?

Folks, it's almost too much for The Hawg to take. Arkansas has been rotten this year, but that Kentucky game hurt more than than the drubbings the Hogs have taken at the hands of Alabama, Florida and Texas combined. To make things worse, Arkansas looked decent against Auburn last week, so a lot of us were hoping the young Razorbacks were finally coming around and learning how to play a little football.

Simply put, the Razorbacks (3-4, 1-3 in the SEC) failed and gave the Kentucky Wildcats (5-2, 1-2 in the SEC) their first conference victory. It would appear, then, that the Wildcats were very wise in scheduling Arkansas for the homecoming game.

The most revealing thing about the game is just how much former head coach Houston Nutt emphasized the running game. Folks, running back Michael Smith is the Razorbacks' offense. How solid was Smith? He rushed for 192 yards and a touchdown and received for 33 yards and a touchdown. That's 225 total yards and 2 touchdowns -- not bad when you consider the rest of the offense contributed 105 yards and two field goals.

Now, here's the kicker. Smith is now listed as day-to-day due to a concussion he sustained while being run to death in the Kentucky game. There's a chance he might not be able to play on Saturday. Without Smith, the Hogs are done.

Anyway, back to the Kentucky game. Struggling quarterback Casey Dick threw for 94 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Thanks to the dreadful offensive line, Dick was sacked three times and was hurried into at least one of those interceptions.

It was a hard game to watch. The offensive line seems adept at opening up holes for Smith, but can't protect Dick (yeah, I chuckled when writing that -- it's true in both a figurative and literal sense). Nutt went and recruited players for a running offense and it shows.

Did anything good come out of Saturday's game. Actually, yes. Petrino may have finally found a field goal kicker in Shay Haddock, who managed to boot a couple of balls through the uprights on Saturday. Perhaps Petrino has solved that problem.

Also, the team is improving. We've got a bunch of kids on that team who were playing high school ball this time last year, and that bunch almost beat Kentucky on Saturday and did manage to beat Auburn the previous week.

Here's hoping the team is very improved, indeed, when Houston Nutt and Ole Miss come to Fayetteville next week. Of course, we all hate Houston Nutt and, fortunately, Ole Miss plays like a Nutt-coached team. Ole Miss, having lost to Alabama on Saturday, is also 1-3 in the SEC. I hope Arkansas stomps Nutt into the ground.

I also hope Arkansas fans boo Nutt throughout the entire game and throw garbage at him. It's better than he deserves.

Next year the Hogs will be better. Still, watching this team struggle through the current season is difficult, indeed. I'm certain this season has increased liquor sales at package stores around the state.

My beloved Benton Panthers aren't holding up too well, either. Read all about it right here.