Merry Christmas, y’all.
One of the things for which I’m thankful this season is that Razorback fans seem more unified than ever.
This came into sharper light last week when Eric Musselman spoke to the Little Rock Tip Off Club and said this about playing in central Arkansas: “We’re hitting another fan base”
With all due respect, NO, Eric, you were not. There’s only ONE fan base in Arkansas and it exists between West Memphis and Texarkana, Lake Village and Bentonville, and El Dorado and Blytheville.
The entire state is together in its love for the Hogs. Case in point: Last weekend, when I attended the Arkansas-Valparaiso game in North Little Rock. Our party of four, out of the nearly 16,000 packing the place, showed the geographic range of our base.
I was born in Fort Smith, raised in Little Rock and graduated from the U of A. Meanwhile, all three of my guests were UA grads. My girlfriend was born and raised in Little Rock my two friends are from Wynne (49 miles from Memphis) and from Hamburg (18 miles from the Louisiana border and not much further east to the Mississippi River).
So, two Little Rockers, one Wynner and one Hamburger. Muss, there’s only ONE fan base and it includes anyone who has claimed Arkansas as their home. It knows no geographic boundaries, since there’s plenty of us in the DFW area too.
Our basketball Hogs, who have fallen out of the NCAA NET Top 25 to No. 34, put on a show at Simmons Bank Arena. Central Arkansas fans were excited when they walked in and happy when they walked out. It was one helluva game.
We went up by a lot early. But Valparaiso, much better than its 7-6 record, charged back to take the lead. But, at the end of the night, Isaiah Joe made a steal, fed it to Mason Jones and he nailed it.
He finally woke up after a mostly cold night. Granted, the man deserved to rest after a 41-point explosion the previous game against Tulsa. In the last minute and a half Jones hit two three-pointers. Overall, his 20 points complemented Joe’s 21 and 7 rebounds.
ME, HIM AND THE RIM:
The game turned on a defensive stand with 43 seconds to go. Valpo’s Javon Freeman-Liberty drove a dunk that would have cut our lead to one. Adrio Bailey moved over, went up and flat out denied him. It was the 4th block of the night for the 6’6” forward. After the game, Bailey said: “It was me, him and the rim and he had to meet me there.”
These are the words of a competitor. These are the words of someone who knows the score and knows what he has to do in the moment. By the way, he also had 10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and he had another block to bring his total to 5. Not bad.
Aftward, Mason Jones explained how the Hogs were able to pull out the 72-68 win: “It’s just the way coach Muss and the coaching staff prepare us for these games and the way we practice this all week. It’s simple when we get to the game.”
Let me ask you this. Does anyone recall any Arkansas player ever saying something like this about Mike Anderson’s preparation for an opponent?
Despite the unintentional gaffe, Muss has this team playing the way Arkansans want them to play. Giving effort, playing hard nosed basketball and finding ways to win, rather than finding ways to lose.
Musselman was a GREAT hire and he’s got us at 10 wins against 1 loss. I’ll take him any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I’m certain he didn’t intend to stir anything up regarding NWA vs. the rest of Arkansas when he mentioned “another fan base.”
After all, this is not a Southern California vs. Northern Californian fight. In fact, it’s not a fight at all.
We’re united in our love, and despair, for the Hogs. With the way these basketball Hogs are playing, plus the latest news about the football team, it’s finally more love than despair again.