“Clever people have been pointing out for a long time that happiness is like good health: when it’s there, you don’t notice it.”
― Mikhail Bulgakov, Morphine
Arkansas fans have been through some dark days, going from a perennial championship contender under Nolan Richardson to a team that always seemed to be on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament. Then, they suffered through years in the football wilderness after Bobby Petrino’s unceremonious exit. Deep in the wilderness. So I try, albeit poorly, to maintain perspective during the inevitable ups and downs of a season.
Downs like the last two losses by the Arkansas basketball team. First, there was the 60-57 loss to LSU to open SEC play. Sure, LSU is slightly harder to hate this season because it is no longer coached by someone who was caught on an FBI wiretap talking about paying recruits, but in looking back on the game, it’s not hard to believe Arkansas lost, but that the Hogs lost by only 3 points. When you shoot 4 of 25 from beyond the arc, it really shouldn’t even be close, but Arkansas was a questionable no call on a Ricky Council IV drive away from having a chance to win the game.
You know how you can tell it’s a foul and not a clean block? Both of his arms stop moving up. Watch it in slow motion. Arkansas got hosed. It’s almost as if the refs in the Liberty Bowl said, “No one will screw an Arkansas team harder in 2022” and the refs in the LSU game promptly said, “Hold my beer.”
At least Arkansas had a chance to win that game near the end. The same cannot be said for the shooting abomination that happened Saturday night at Auburn, when the Razorbacks made just 31.8% of their layups and everyone outside of Anthony Black converted a putrid 37.5% of their free throws.
The Situation with Texas Basketball
Even with the Missouri home win sandwiched in between, this is a subpar way to start conference play. But it could be much worse. Razorback fans could be suffering like Texas basketball fans. As you may have heard, Chris Beard was fired after a domestic violence charge in mid-December.
It is a difficult situation for everyone involved. For the first time in 20 years, the Longhorns appear to be Final Four contenders. Prior to the arrest, there was an unusual excitement amongst Texas basketball fans (the few) and the mildly interested observers that pass as Texas basketball fans (the many). Thanks to Matthew McConaughey, you can get a sense of the general mood here.*
*A friend noted that perhaps the Texas marketing machine needs to rethink the “Reveal, Revive, Testify” lyrics.
As much as I enjoy mocking Texas fans, I am familiar with their pain. For I lived through the Bobby Petrino era.
Conjuring Memories of Bobby Petrino
Arkansas fans went through a similar, albeit less serious, situation with football coach Bobby Petrino in April 2012. I am hesitant to compare the two at this point, other than to say as a fan, it sucks when an off-the-field issue places a program in the position of deciding whether a successful coach should be terminated.
It seems clear in hindsight Petrino had to go. Not that I haven’t continued to fantasize about a world where Bobby Petrino kept coaching the Razorbacks. The Hogs under Petrino were rolling in a way that the program hadn’t since Lou Holtz roamed the sidelines for the Hogs. To this day, despite all the tut-tutting around Petrino’s tag-teaming with Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M, I believe Petrino is a great coach. And by “coach,” I mean nothing beyond someone who can win ball games.
I have come to accept there may be more important things than winning ball games, but only upon reflection. If you had asked me whether Arkansas should have kept Petrino as coach in 2012, I would have said “Absolutely.” I lamented his loss for years. What I didn’t realize then, and do now, is that it would not have been the same if he had stayed. The wins wouldn’t have felt as good. There would be a cosmic asterisk next to his record.
Instead, I dreamed about a world that didn’t exist. A world where Petrino didn’t own a motorcycle. A world where top-10 finishes were not uncommon and Petrino’s personal foibles never saw the light of day. It was only after Chris Beard’s arrest that I realized the foolishness of this dream. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men and so on and so forth.
I sympathize with fans of the Longhorns no matter how this season shakes out. They can never go back to a world in which their coach wasn’t arrested for domestic violence. I have no idea how good the coach they will get as a replacement will be, but it sucks for them. Unfolding in front of us is the pain of pinning your happiness on other people, I suppose. You buy the ticket and take the ride.
It’s also a good reminder that Razorback fans are pretty lucky to hang on to their current coaches, especially those like Eric Musselman that Texas would like for themselves.
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