Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Tour of the SEC, part II


Part I of the tour covered 6 of my favourite Road Trip destinations in the SEC. There are five more to go, and I’ll get to them; I have individual posts for Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and War Memorial Stadium. First, though, a word about Road Trips themselves.

Fridays and Saturdays during football season find the freeways (and assorted state highways) of the Southeast filled with cars, trucks, and RV’s heading for football games. Inevitably, they are filled to capacity with both people and tailgating supplies.

Going on Road Trips, like winning football games, requires exquisite planning, timing, skill, and execution. As I was writing this post, I was intermittently checking Facebook. On it, two of my favourite sportschix, Dee Bawiec and Biccy Hamilton, were planning this year’s tailgating. (That’s a whole other post, but the SEC is justifiably proud of its women. SEC women are talented beyond belief. They can whip up the most amazing victuals, plan the tailgate party, get the departure going, and discuss in detail the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent’s Offensive and Defensive lines, while sailing along, not a hair out of place, in heels, pearls, and a cloud of Chanel No. 5. They are truly amazing creatures. Now, if they could only read a map….;-).

The appropriate decoration of the GameDay Vehicle is critical, since you will be representing your University (and State if traveling out of state). Window flags? Check. Magnets? Check. “Shakers”? Check. Hint: if a few flags/magnets/shakers are good, a whole LOT of flags/magnets/shakers are a WHOLE LOT BETTER! With magnets, especially, it’s desirable to have several of the “main” mascot/logo, but ALL of the logos MUST be represented or you just haven’t done a very good job.

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It is remotely possible, though unlikely, that some SEC fans can get carried away…

At Arkansas, the “running Hog” is the main mascot, but there are a bunch more: “Go Hogs” “On our way…to see the HOGS play!” etc.

To the Game!

Dad and I getting ready to leave for Oxford, Mississippi for the Ole Miss game in November, 1999. I know the exact date pretty well, because this car was 3 months old at the time; the next weekend, on the way to the Tennessee game in Fayetteville (Stoerner’s Revenge), I totaled it.

FAD 2001 5

The tailgate vehicle which replaced the little Monte Carlo; damn, I still love that truck, wish I had it back. It was great, because it could haul MORE STUFF.


And finally, “Big Red”, in which you could haul all your stuff without getting it wet…

Once the vehicle is properly decorated, and you have taken the appropriate care to make certain you’ve got everything necessary for survival in a foreign country (after all, they can’t possibly have Gillette Fusion Shave Gel in Columbia, South Carolina, can they? What’s that, you say? They have WAL-MART???? OUR Wal-Mart???? ---and another aside, no Arkie can travel out-of-state without going to Wal-Mart at least once in the destination city. It’s a rule…), you begin the pre-departure checklist. EZ-UP? Check. Chairs? Check. TV(s)? Check. Satellite apparatus? Check. Golf Clubs? Check. (Oh come on, we’re talking essentials here! I know the damn clubs take up a lot of space! I also know I suck at golf. The South is covered up with superb golf courses!). Appropriate logo sportswear in both summer (shorts/t-shirt) and winter (up to and including parkas) styles (our weather is extremely variable), rain ponchos with mascot logo? Check and check.


An SEC moment---ran into these guys on one of the Robert Trent Jones golf courses (Silver Lakes) in Alabama---two brothers, one Georgia Dawg, one Alabama Tider, and me.

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I know the post is about Road Trips; a buddy and I golfed our way from Knoxville to Tuscaloosa one year. The South is truly a place of wonder, mystical in its beauty---but, I digress….(and yes, I did take this picture, right before sending my golf ball for a day at the beach)

Then you get to the important stuff. Ice chest? Check. Bourbon? Check. Scotch? Check. Beer? Check. Bloody Mary supplies? Check. Tasty snax for the road? Check. Ice chest loaded in vehicle in a location so as to be convenient to the driver/passengers, but not overtly obvious to any passing fuzz? Check, check, and check.

Then you get to the REALLY important stuff: the Visual Inspection of the Tickets.

Tickets may be inspected at any time during the weeks leading up to the game (care must be exercised to wipe any incriminating drool off them), but they MUST be visually inspected in the vehicle while everyone is sitting therein, with the keys in the drivers’ hand (not in the ignition). Great care must be taken to ensure that the CORRECT tickets, in the required numbers, are present in the vehicle before the vehicle can be started. Upon cross-check (having someone else in the vehicle visually verify the accuracy of the tickets), the vehicle may be started, with the tickets placed prominently on the dash for continual reassurance while driving. If the vehicle is emptied---say, potty break or restaurant---the tickets must accompany the Custodian of the Tickets upon their person. Once everyone is back in the vehicle, the inspection process must be repeated. Every time.


All of that so you can do THIS—tailgate on a perfect fall day in the South (in this case, at Mississippi State)…


…and this (freeze your butt off having a good time in Baton Rouge)…


…where your friends have done “cochon de lait” in your honor…


And see sights like this…


…and this…


…and this.

No tour of the SEC is complete without mentioning the two hubs of the SEC: Atlanta and Memphis. I credit JR Marlow with this section, because he often spoke of it as one of his favourite things. Mine, too.

All roads in the SEC lead through either Atlanta or Memphis or both. If you’re in Fayetteville and you wish to go to Knoxville, you’re going through Memphis. If you’re in Tuscaloosa and you wish to go to Columbia, you’re going through Atlanta. (Old joke: Why do Southerners not go straight to Heaven or Hell when they die? They have to change through Atlanta….).

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“Tailgating” in Midtown Atlanta

So, if you have Tennessee playing Auburn “on the plains” the same weekend that Alabama is playing Georgia in Athens, and Arkansas is playing South Carolina in Columbia while Ole Miss is hosting Florida---Interstate 40, Interstate 20, US 78, Interstate 85, the “Perimeter”—Interstate 285 around Atlanta---and I 240 around Memphis (great care must be exercised in choosing whether it’s more advantageous to cross “The River” via the “Old Bridge” or the “New Bridge”) are going to be very interesting, filled with brightly decorated, heavily loaded vehicles, flags flying, going in opposite directions. It’s crazy. It’s fun. It’s wonderful. It’s the SEC.

I don’t know why I thought of this story to close this particular post, but it came to mind thinking about Atlanta. The last Auburn game I was able to attend in Auburn, I was able to work into a business trip to Atlanta. So I had business in Atlanta Friday, drove down Saturday morning for the game (HOGS WIN! HOGS WIN! HOGS WIN!) and drove back to Atlanta late Saturday/early Sunday. I’m Episcopalian. I got up in time and decided to go to Mass at St. Philip’s Cathedral in Buckhead. I hadn’t planned very well, and all I had left (besides the clothes I had to wear to my business meeting Monday) was a fresh Razorback “sidelines” shirt (same shirt the coaches wear on the sidelines; I get a new one every year, so I’ve got several). I decided God wouldn’t mind if I showed up at His place in a Razorback shirt (there had been plenty of praying going on in the stadium the night before…). I walked up (feeling very underdressed) to the imposing main doors; the two ushers on either side of the door were handing out programs in Morning attire---cutaways, cravats, the works. Yikes. And here I was in a freaking Hog sidelines shirt. Great.

One of the ushers, a 30-something gentleman, leaned over to speak privately to me; I was positive he was going to ask me to sit somewhere inconspicuous due to my lack of proper attire. I was mortified. So what did he say? In a South Alabama accent instantly recognizable anywhere, he quietly said:

“Y’all kicked our ASS last night! Damn! That McFadden is SOMETHING! But War Damn Eagle anyway!”

I love the SEC.

tomorrow: Tour continues








My tour of the SEC (part I)

As I posted previously, at one point I had the time, money, and inclination to tour the Southeastern Conference following the football fortunes of my favourite team, the Arkansas Razorbacks.  We had some highs, we had some lows, but we had a lot of fun through the years.

The Southeastern Conference is just amazing.  Every stereotype you’ve ever heard is true.  Every comment about the greatness is also true.  The northeastern sportswriters who put the SEC down are just plain jealous.  It is the total college football package:  Gigantic stadia, crazed fans, outrageous tailgating, gorgeous coeds, fabulous atmospheres at each and every location (the superlatives may seem an exaggeration; they are not.  There’s just no way to accurately describe it, so the over-worn superlatives will have to do).  The worst SEC location is better than 99% of the rest of the country.  It really IS that good.

When I originally did this post (back in the day), I had made one complete round.  I went back to most for a second shot, and my opinions have moderated somewhat, especially on the not-so-positive experiences the first time around.

Arkansas has always had flags; when I was a kid, it was Arkansas State flags and Confederate Battle Flags.  Fortunately, the Battle Flag has long been retired, though you will see the Arkansas State flag periodically (and at the beginning of the 4th quarter ;-).

In Fayetteville (campus) and Little Rock (the Hogs’ “Home Away From Home”), the band forms a gigantic “A”, which marches down the field and comes to rest in front of the tunnel.  The players then run through the “A”.  They are led by the cheerleaders carrying enormous Arkansas State and Razorback flags.  At away games, the cheerleaders still lead the team on the field with those flags.

Another overused football cliché is the “War” analogy; that football is a substitute for war.  Well, with wars raging right now, that’s not a very nice thing, but it IS a “mock” battle, complete with flags, bands, ferocious animals, strong leaders, “Generals”, both on the field and on the sidelines, and a “blood cry”, a battle phrase (a la “Remember the Alamo!) that incites your side to give their all.  In the SEC, every Saturday is a “War”; the State of Arkansas, for example, will go to “war” with the State of Alabama (at least the part of it that hollers, “Roll Tide”) on September 26.

I was always enthralled with this particular part of the spectacle; it seemed (at away games) that the flags were leading our young men into ferocious battle in enemy territory.  I therefore resolved, on my second go-round, to take photos of the flags on every “enemy” field. 

Being the “Visitors” is really a unique experience.  We’re all used to our OWN home games, featuring OUR big ol band, OUR pregame show, OUR huge stadium featuring OUR raucous fans.  When you’re the “visitor”, you’ve got anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 “friends”; at “orange” stadia, for example, we’re this little dot of red in a sea of orange, with our tiny “road” band instead of the Razorback Band.  You are vastly outnumbered.

Now, the fact that we famously engage in fratricide in the SEC does not mean for a second that we’re not friends.  We’re just busy beating each other up (think two brothers, age about 6 and 8, going at it).  We’ll stand shoulder to shoulder when talking to outsiders about SEC football.  To the nice people of the Big Ten, Pac 10, Big 12, ACC, and Big East:  It’s an SEC thing.  You wouldn’t understand.

Enough blather.   Get your EZ-Up, your monogrammed chairs, your favourite tailgate delicacies, (don’t forget the ice chest!), load up, and let’s go!  IT’S FOOTBALL TIME IN THE SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE!!!!

(Caveat:  when I originally wrote this post, it was for Arkansas fans who might visit or like to visit the other SEC venues.  I’m not going to post about Arkansas in this post, either, because that particular experience gets its very own post.  Also, I have no objectivity whatsoever in the matter ;-).

I think I’ll forgo typing “Huge stadium” on each and every post.  The smallest stadium in the SEC is Vanderbilt at 39,000, but the rest of them are bigger than most of the rest of the stadia in the NCAA.


The quintessential SEC experience. If you can only attend one road game ever, Tennessee is it. Whatever you may say about it, Neyland Stadium is one of the most impressive stadiums in College Football; it's the real deal.  100,000 screaming fans.


The Tennessee fans are the most knowledgeable football fans in the Southeastern Conference (including ours). From children to old ladies, they know their football. It's impressive to hear a 30 year old woman, dressed head to toe in orange, toddler on hip (also in orange), spouting YOUR quarterback's passing stats and asking in-depth questions about your defensive schemes.

Tennessee 2

The campus is historic, handsome, and sited beautifully on the Tennessee river . The Vol Walk is unsurpassed, as is the Tennessee Navy. The Pride of the Southland is one of the top bands in the nation, not just the SEC. Their pregame show (featuring a very gracious salute to the visiting team) is one of the best in the SEC, and gets their fans pumped up. When Tennessee scores, you cannot hear the 400 piece Pride of the Southland due to excessive noise. They really know how to support their team, silent when their team is on offense, shaking the rafters when their team is on defense; it is deafening when they are really cranked.

Their traditions are outstanding. From the sea of orange in the stands to the orange and white fireworks to the orange checkerboard endzones, even to the dreaded playing (10,000 times per game—or per quarter—) of their “War Cry”, the infamous “Rocky Top”, there's no doubt at all: "It's Football Time in Tennessee ".

Tennessee rocks.

Auburn  “WAR EAGLE!!!”

Auburn, located in a great small town on the Alabama/Georgia border about an hour east of Montgomery (the sobriquet, “The Loveliest Village on the Plains” was taken from a poem, but it really is nice) has one of the best traditions in the SEC.  As the band spells out “AUBURN”, the crowd becomes quiet.  At the very top of the stadium, a majestic eagle is released; he/she soars around the stadium, finally landing on the field.  The crowd goes insane.  The story is that a battered eagle landed on the field during an early Auburn football game (the team is the “Tigers”); the fighting spirit of the proud old eagle inspired the Auburn team to victory and the crowd has hollered “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr EAGle!” at every game since.


Handsome campus filled some of the friendliest people on the face of the earth.  They want to kick your ass on the football field, but then they’ll buy you a drink after the game.  “Rolling Toomer’s Corner” is a great tradition; Toomer’s Drug Store has stood on the same corner for decades; after an Auburn win, the entire populace “rolls” it with toilet paper.  So, I guess you could say, if Tennessee Rocks, Auburn Rolls!  (sorry, couldn’t resist).  I love it down there would love the opportunity to go again.



Ole Miss  “HOTTY TODDY!!!”

Mississippi’s state slogan used to be “The South’s Warmest Welcome”, and while each southern state can legitimately (in my opinion) claim that title, one area in which OM absolutely excels is tailgating.  The original (antebellum) campus surrounds a grove of ancient oak trees; this grove continues through the campus toward town.  On football Saturdays, people start arriving at The Grove at something like 3:00 am to claim their spot and start setting up their tailgate.  Tents contain crystal chandeliers, living room furniture, food that would put some of the best restaurants to shame; hosts are wearing blazers, khakis, and starched white shirts; hostesses are in dresses, heels, and pearls; “dinnah” is served on china, with silver that was in the well at Vicksburg when Grant took the city.  The Grove is second to none; there’s not another fanbase in the country that can touch it. 

Of course, there is the infamous cheer.  Nobody knows quite where it came from, and the wording seems to vary slightly, but here’s –more or less- a version:

Announcer (a celebrity now that they’ve got a display board):

“….Ole Miss fans, ARE YOU READY?”











Kathy and LBeau enjoying the Ole Miss ambiance

Ole Missa

Little did we know when this started….

olemiss0132 ….that it would turn out to be the longest game in NCAA history, 7 overtimes! 

My little group celebrating that victory in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.



There’s nothing like Tiger Stadium on Saturday Night.  I’ve heard this for years, but never experienced it; Arkansas and LSU have been the featured afternoon game on the Friday after Thanksgiving for the entire time Arkansas has been in the SEC.  So, I’ve only seen Tiger Stadium in the daytime.

The stadium is huge (ok, I broke my own rule, but it really is).  It is old.  It is cramped.  It is full of some of the rowdiest college football fans extant.  They are full of the best pre-game food available:  gumbo, boudin, jambalaya, crawfish etouffe, shrimp Creole, and, of course, in our honour, cochon de lait.  In true Louisiana fashion, and because our game IS the Friday after Thanksgiving, they’ve been drinking since roughly Monday.   (A quick aside:  I once went to that game with my buddy Doug from Little Rock; Doug—a much bigger boy than me—is a native of “Alec” (Alexandria), and he invited me to stay at his family’s home Thanksgiving evening and then go to the game the next day.  I didn’t want to impose, but he said, “Trust me, it’s no imposition…” so I acceded.  We arrived at their modest home in Alexandria and were greeted at the back door by his Dad (“COME IN!  WHAT YOU BOYS DRINKING TODAY?”) and his Mom (wringing her hands).  I told his Mom I hoped I wasn’t imposing; she said, “No, hon, I’m just worried there won’t be enough food.”  My GOD.  There was food on every single flat surface in the house; she’d apparently been cooking for days and days.  Each room was dedicated to its own food item; the dining table (all leaves in) was for meat:  ham, chicken, turkey (fried, roasted, and terduckan), sausage, venison, standing rib roast (!), pork chops, and meatloaf—and that was the table.  The sideboard held more.  The breakfast room and den held the sweets….). 

I tell this story to say that Louisianans see no reason whatsoever to stop a perfectly good feast for a football game, so they just pack it all up and transfer it to the stadium.  People start arriving Tuesday and have Thanksgiving on their tailgate spots. 

Baton Rouge consumes the state’s daily allotment of alcoholic beverages for the month in that one day.

Accordingly, some of those folks are really, really drunk.  Now, this can be fun, but it can result in public urination, foul language, and other unsavoury instances.

If, however, you can brave the tough part, a trip to Tiger Stadium is amazing.  Their biggest tradition (besides the legendary tailgates) is as follows:  The Golden Band from Tiger Land (400 strong) marches onto the field, stops, raises their instruments, and blares the first four notes of “HOLD…THAT…TI-GER!!!!” toward the student section---which erupts.  They switch sides of the stadium and blare the same notes again and THAT section erupts.  You really can’t hear much of the band after that.

LSU fans have set off the seismographs (as in “earthquake”) in the geology department across campus with their cheering.  Twice.



Unfortunately, I don’t have any of my Georgia pictures where I can get to them---my last trip to Sanford Stadium was before I got my first digital camera.  Suffice it to say that it is big, it is loud, and it is proud. 

Beautiful antebellum campus nestled in the foothills of the Piedmont.  Spectacular architecture, beautiful landscaping. Sanford Stadium is beginning to show its age but still one of the best in the SEC. There’s a tomb in the endzone where all the UGA’s (the bulldog mascot) are buried.  Sanford, like Razorback, is in a ravine on campus, so as you’re walking down the street, you look down into the lower bowl.  The campus is full of some of the most beautiful coeds in the south.

On my first trip to Athens, I lived in Nashville and had a buddy at work who was also from Arkansas.  We went to the first Arkansas-Georgia game in Sanford Stadium.  As we drove up with our flags bravely flying, we said, “Uh-oh”; a group of frat guys were partying nearby and started toward us.  “HEYYY, y’all came all the way from Arkansas?!  (No, Nashville).  Welcome to Georgia!  Have y’all ever been here?  No?  Can we get you a beer?  Let us show you around!”  They then did so.

We made it to our seats, which we had gotten from an attorney friend in Atlanta.  We hadn’t realized they were smack in the middle of the “Bulldog Club”.  So here we were, in our little Razorback outfits, in the middle of all these rabid Dawgs.  The lady sitting next to me was a classic; 70-ish, black skirt, scarlet cashmere jacket, pearls (and a diamond broach that probably refugeed from Atlanta during “the War”).  Arkansas scored a TD and Bill and I jumped up and screamed—us, the 2,000 Arkansas fans across the stadium, and nobody else.  We sat down quickly and I turned to the lady and said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry, we didn’t mean to offend.”  She looked me up and down and said, “Sugah, if I were in your stadium and the Dawgs scored, I’d be screaming my fool head off!  You stand up and cheah for your team!!!” 

I love Georgia.

Alabama  Roll, Tide!!!

(smirks) Where do I start with Bama?  Oh, I know, here:

Absofreakinglutely Unbelievable

Alabama would be a lot of fun if they’d just take themselves less seriously.  Well, now, that’s not entirely true, either; they’re a lot of fun in part because they DO take themselves so seriously!

After all, they had The Bear.

Bear Bryant truly left his mark on Alabama, and they’ve never quite recovered.  Gene Stallings won a national championship there, but he wasn’t The Bear.

Alabama claims more national championships than almost everybody, and they honestly won most of them, so you have to love their tradition.  If that didn’t come with as much arrogance as the University of Texas packaged in, it would be wonderful.  In fact, as I’ve so often said, “Alabama has all the arrogance of Texas--without the money.”

As it is, a trip to Tuscaloosa is a mixture of great (the sublime Dreamland, the original, not the copies) and the terrible (We’re gonna kick your ass because we are Bama, and after all, we did have The Bear!). 

Beautiful antebellum campus, beautiful coeds, great tailgating (sounds like a broken record, eh?).  We’ve had some great moments in Tuscaloosa—unlikely victories snatched from the jaws of defeat, freak thunder and lightning storms, all kinds of craziness.  Seems when Arkansas and Alabama get together, sparks fly.

Their claim to fame is “Roll, Tide” and it is impressive---the entire stadium’s population, led by the Million Dollar Band, circles their right hands in the air, “Rooooolllllll, TIDE, ROLL!” 

Their version of “Rock and Roll”, titled “Rammer Jammer” goes, “Hey, Hogs, Hey Hogs, Hey Hogs, we’re gonna beat the HELL outta you!  Rammer Jammer Yella Hammer Give ‘em Hell, Alabama!”  It has the desired effect of making you want to bird ‘em. 

Actually, the one truly impressive thing they do is when their “Battle cry” turns into a “Blood cry”.  We do this at Arkansas and it’s one of my favourite things in the whole world:  when the momentum shifts and everybody in the stadium feels it, in Arkansas we’ll be cheering madly and that cheer resolves itself (unaided by the cheerleaders or the band and sometimes in spite of them) into the Hog Call; that sends chills down everybody’s spine because the crowd smells blood; in ancient Rome, the crowd is screaming “finish him!”.

When Bama goes ahead and the momentum shifts, the crowd (unaided by the cheerleaders and the band, and sometimes in spite of them) begins rhythmically screaming, “Rollll, TIDE!  Rolllll, TIDE!  Rollllll, TIDE!”  Chilling.

But not in THESE pictures, by God!  ;-)



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Arkansas 34, Alabama 31.  Sweet, sweet, sweet.

But hey:  did you know they had The Bear?


This concludes part I (aren’t you glad?).  Part II tomorrow or whenever I can get to it.








Tuesday, August 25, 2009

And just like that…

…it’s football season. A month ago, I could recite the baseball standings. At this point, I could care less. Oh, I care, and I’ll care more when we get to the DS and CS phase of the playoffs, and of course I’ll be glued to the World Series come October---but who’s leading the NL Central right now? Clueless! Why?


When I lived in Tennessee, before Arkansas joined the Southeastern Conference, I went to a lot of Tennessee football games in Knoxville. If you’ve never been, it’s a real experience---the quintessential SEC/College Football experience. Crisp, cool Saturdays, with a sky so blue you can see Jupiter; the leaves in a million shades of red, orange, yellow; the cute co-eds (I’m old, I can use the term “co-eds” if I want) in their snug sweaters and leather boots; the Band marching in; Neyland Stadium; the Tennessee Navy in full force---it’s great fun.

UT02 (35)

Neyland in 2002

For years, their stadium announcer was a man named Bobby Denton (I have no idea if he’s even still living). Vols fans (I was dating one and friends with many) anxiously looked forward to the first game of the season, and couldn’t wait to hear him key the mike.

He’d key the mike and cry, “Ladies and Gentlemen, IT’S FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!!!”

I think of that every year at this time of year; IT’S FOOTBALL TIME!!!!

It’s still hot as a two dollar pistol in Houston, but it’s really getting to be football time; the worm has just turned (and the question might be, how many more clichés can Nick work into one blog post?).

It’s FOOTBALL TIME! Can you feel it?!


1137-med Writing the above, regarding announcers, made me think of a man I had the great privilege of knowing: Paul Eells.

Paul, a native of Iowa, was a sports reporter by trade. He started announcing games on the radio, then “graduated” to television; he was the “Voice of the Commodores” for Vanderbilt in Nashville in the 70’s before coming to Arkansas.

For the last several decades of his life, Paul was the “Voice of the Razorbacks”, broadcasting the games and hosting the Coach’s show. He didn’t always get the play by play right (reminds me of me in that), but what he may have lacked in pristine accuracy he more than made up with enthusiasm.

Paul was one of the classiest individuals I’ve ever met, and, like everyone else who knew him, I am far richer for having known him. A true Gentleman, in the highest, best sense of that word.

How did you know it was football time in Arkansas? When you heard Paul Eells, more excited at every yard, hollering, “He’s at the 40! the 30! the 20! the 10….TOUCHDOWN, ARKANSAS!!!! OH, MY!!!! WHAT A PLAY!!!!”

If you want to hear Paul, click here. Or here. Or here. (Warning to Razorbacks fans: You need to be alone, and you’re going to need Kleenex if you’re going to listen).

(In the “Miracle on Markham” segment, I was sitting on the 30 yard line, 4th row, in the picture as the ball whizzed past).


So many great memories. Orville Henry. Paul Eells. Frank Broyles. It’s my honour to have known those men. I grew up reading Orville’s column; I was proud to count him as my personal friend as an adult. Listened to Paul for years; got to know him through WebHogs. Coach Broyles (he will always be “Coach” Broyles to me) may have made some bad moves later in life, but I’ll always see him, shirttail flapping, on the sidelines urging Freddie Marshall or Ronnie Caveness or the Burnetts or Bill Montgomery or Joe Ferguson on to greatness.

Nick and JFB2

Coach Broyles and yours truly, on the field at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium

As we go on this football season, I’m going to visit some old memories…great games, great moments, amazing trips, stupid trips, wonderful friends… as well as hopefully some new ones.

I just can’t wait! IT’S FOOTBALL TIME!!!!!!!

Ok, one more clip. Click it if you dare ;-)

8/26/09, 3:20 PM

AND a PostScript:

A friend sent pictures of the interior of the "improved" Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, and I was sneaking a peek from work. I have a Sirius Satellite Radio boombox in my office, set to "Sirius XM Pops", soft background music. As I flipped through the pictures, the song that came up on the radio was the WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE. It was all I could do to keep from jumping up and doing the "gallop"! (fortunately for my co-workers, decorum held sway). (But, I have done the "gallop" along with Rick Bawiec and 2 other "full figure" boys in the stadium, and it was indeed a "sight", one which the nearby onlookers will not soon forget. Fortunately for the onlookers, there were no sharp sticks available, so their eyes are still intact.....).

Monday, August 24, 2009

A quick pET peeve

It's ET cetera. Not "EX cetera" or "ICK cetera". ET. Rhymes with pet, set, and let. Et, latin, meaning "and". "ET CETERA" means "and so forth", or "and the rest". It is a latin phrase used in all the latin-based or -influenced languages (including ours) and means the same in all of them, since it is unaltered from the original latin.

My boss does this one all the time and it drives me insane. "ickcetera, ickcetera". Or even, "And ickcetera." This morning, the Sirius traffic announcer used, "EX cetera".


(see also "EXpecially" or "ICKspecially").

Rant over, please resume normal blog.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Sometimes the Muse just doesn’t strike (especially when the stress levels from everyday life are high). On those occasions, I think I’ll post a blast from the past.

When I first signed on to the magical America Online (I think about 1995?), it was actually a big disappointment. I mean, they had all this “content”, but it was relatively simplistic and kind of boring. There was also the per-minute charge, plus the fact that the connection was always busy. I subscribed for a few months, said, “This is for the birds,” and quit.

About a year later, I heard from a friend about a dial-up service (nobody had “high speed” or even knew what it was, at least among the general public) called Arkansas.Net, wherein you could get on “the Internet”. I told them I had already been on the Internet, and didn’t think much of it. “No, no, no, you were on America Online. Try the actual “Internet”, all these companies are getting “web-sites” and you can do things like read the paper “on-line”. As my paper was soaked that morning from storms, I thought, “Now there’s an idea” and called up Arkansas.Net. In short order, I had an account and started “surfing the Internet” for the first time.

Being a huge Razorbacks fan, of course I looked for Razorbacks-related stuff. Arkansas.Net provided me with “email”, and I somehow found this “Listserv” wherein members would post a message and the server would email it to everybody. I happily signed up. That’s where I first “met” my friend Kathy Beaumont, posting on the listserv. Actually, I stated something incorrectly and Kathy corrected me (don’t remember what it was now). I didn’t post much after that, didn’t want to look foolish (well, I sure got over THAT one, didn’t I?).

As I “surfed”, it occurred to me to look up (on this new Yahoo! thingy) the TV stations in Little Rock. I checked out KATV, then KARK, then KTHV. Interestingly, in the “Sports” section on the KARK site, there was a “link” for a “Bulletin Board”. Hmmm, whassat? I clicked on it and there were “threads” containing “posts” from apparently just regular people. Some of them used their names, but many used funny “monikers”. I began checking that bulletin board every day for any interesting chatter.

One of the regulars on the KARK board was someone posting as “booth” (my friend Booth Rand, a Little Rock attorney; I didn’t know Booth then). Booth was known as a “flamer”; he’d get on there and “flame” people (post scathing remarks about them) who were obviously stupid or who were supporting any other team. He got warned repeatedly by management, then finally banned. He started his own website, The PigPen. Overnight, most of us “migrated” from the KARK board to The PigPen (the KARK board never recovered).

So, I was reading the posts on The PigPen, but far to shy to actually post anything myself (why would anybody want to read my scribbles? They all knew more than I did anyway). But, this poster on The PigPen, who went by “rickb” (I remembered him from KARK), asked a question to which I actually knew the answer. When nobody answered him, I decided to do so. I had noticed two or three new posters who used their town name and the word “Hog” or “Hawg”. I liked that, so decided to use it, but leave the space out and capitalize the H (and I’ve never liked “hawg”). So, I signed in as “MalvernHog” and answered Rick’s question.

Several of us on there, rickb, me, NuttHawg, Pigseye, SwineFlew, ewest, a couple of others who will remind me if they read this, decided to meet at a War Memorial Stadium game for a tailgate party. Dad and I had been doing KFC and Miller High Life on the actual tailgate of the pickup, but we took our KFC and Miller High Life over and met my “online” friends. It was the genesis of the WebHogs Razorback Club, which Rick and I and some others basically ran for several years; we wound up having tailgate parties for 200+ people with pulled pork BBQ (provided by “SwineFlew”), big screen TV’s (id10t and WherezThePork), and fun for all. I had some of the most fun of my life with this group of rabid Razorbacks fans who met on the internet.

(Kathy also had migrated with us from the listserv and KARK to the PigPen, where she began posting as “Petunia Pig”). We had the best (funniest) monikers in the Southeastern Conference internet community.

But back to the bulletin boards. As happens sometimes, in the early days it was great, everybody got along, fun was had; then bickering and dissent set in. There were groups that just wanted recruiting talk; others who wanted to talk about their lives (the niche Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter now occupy); still others who just wanted to flame. Booth got tired of messing with it, too. We began diversifying into other boards. was one big group. Clay Henry, my friend and publisher of the magazine HawgsIllustrated, started his own board as an adjunct to the magazine. I had subscribed to the mag for years, and went online with Clay on the “HI Insiders” board, while still checking in on the ‘Pen (and lurking on Woopig).

There are a lot more ramifications of this story, of interest ONLY to those who were involved, but several things came of this:

  • I made some of the best friends of my life off these boards
  • I’m still friends with many/most of them
  • There were some really good times on those boards

I’m not a “Recruiting Guru”, nor am I a “Football Expert”. I could never match wits with some of those people; they are obsessed fanatics (the “X’s and O’s” guys can break down plays till my eyes cross; I can’t get all excited about what some 17 year old boy in Smackover, Arkansas had for breakfast --- “He was observed in the town cafe having BACON with his eggs; that can ONLY mean he’s ready to commit to the Hogs!!!!”--- no, that means he likes bacon. He may be eating the bacon while he mulls his offer from LSU…..). I decided my specialty would be “…and YOU were THERE” type posts. I read an autobiography of one of the astronauts (Space being another big interest of mine), and he said that the question he got most was, “What was it really LIKE? What was it really LIKE to actually BE THERE?” I decided to write about that.

When I was a little kid, my Aunt Shorty and Uncle Cal traveled all over the Southwest Conference, attending Razorbacks games. They had a GREAT time doing it, and I always wanted to do it. I had not missed a home game (Little Rock or Fayetteville) since 1994; season ticket holder, Razorback Foundation contributor. In 1998 (egged on somewhat by RickB and other friends) I decided to make it ALL games, home and away. My streak was unbroken (except for one Auburn game wherein I was in bed with 103 degree fever) from fall 1998 through fall 2006, home and away, regular games, SEC Championship games, and Bowl Games. I would travel to the game, attend, then write the “…and YOU were THERE” piece. What was it like being at the Cotton Bowl when we stomped Texas’ ass in 2000 (glorious, I’ll tell you that right now!)? My friends had already broken down the games in play by play mode; the recruitniks had weighed in on how that game might affect this recruit or that one. I told “the folks at home” what it was REALLY LIKE to sit there roasting in the sun and watch the back of Fred Talley’s jersey flap in the breeze as he took off from the 6 yard line and ran, all alone, chased by the entire Auburn football team, to score the winning TD at Auburn.

I didn’t save any of those posts---but my friend Marty (Baumbastic Hawg---she’s a huge baseball fan and Arkansas’ baseball stadium is “Baum Stadium”) saved several that she liked.

So, bringing it round to the start of this post: hopefully the Muse will strike me regularly this football season. When it doesn’t, I’ll haul out one of the old posts Marty saved, and post it as a…


Hog & Horn One of my best friends in the world, Keith Burtner (Texas ‘79), and I at Y2Cotton (The 2000 Cotton Bowl), just before he decided he had had enough of me for that day (“Was the double-barreled birding of the Texas fans really necessary?” “Um, yes, absolutely!!”) and conceded (“I’ll be at my house, tell me how you want your steak…”),

January 1, 2000, taken with my first digital camera, purchased for the occasion


In 1969, Arkansas and Texas played for the National Championship (be quiet, Penn Staters, nobody cares about you anyway! ;-). The Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Fayetteville, down the street from the campus, was a Rabid Razorbacks Fan. He posted on the church marquee: “Football is just a game, Life is Eternal; nevertheless, GO HOGS!!!”. I always remembered that. When I started posting, I decided to use it as my signature line. So, as you see it below, it means, “AllTheForegoingDrivelI’veWrittenWhateverItMayBe; nevertheless, GO HOGS!!!”. I’ve signed my posts that way for years---

(be sure and read the comments below, and leave a comment if you visit)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

It’s beginning to look a lot like football….(sung to the tune, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”)

Every year of my life, I swear I won’t do this, and every year of my life, I prove myself wrong.

Face it, I’m a football addict.  (“Hi, my name is Nick and I’m a football-aholic!”  “HIIIII, NICK!”).

It’s not that I don’t like other sports; I love many sports.  Baseball is GREAT.  Basketball is ok. It helps take the pressure off after the Bowl games and then the playoffs/Super Bowl are gone; it eases the transition from the weekend being built around which games are being played at what time to, “What will I do on Saturday and Sunday afternoons now?”  Well, watch basketball!  “Oh, OK!”

Lately, I’ve been a huge fan of Major League Soccer (!) (?).  Never thought I’d say that, but it’s true.  Lots of fun, very exciting games, and like almost every sport, once you learn the rules and the players, get a feel for the league and the game, it becomes a good deal of fun to watch.  (It helps that my team, the Houston Dynamo, are in first place not only in our Division, but leading the entire league, or liga, as we would say….).  Dynamo games, coupled with the Astros, help me survive the long, hot days of summer.

But kids, it’s like this:

Beer is a great beverage.  Wine is super.  Whiskey is fantastic.  All of those things are terrific; they make life interesting, they are the little added tidbits that help give life diversity, interest. 

Water is basic to existence.  We must have water or die.  When you have been dehydrated, it’s not beer or wine or whiskey or Cokes they give you, it’s water.  Our bodies are mainly composed of water.

And so it is with sports for me.

Baseball, basketball, soccer, all very nice; all are interesting diversions that give a little extra to life.

Football is necessary for existence.

Speaking of bodily functions/enzymes/adrenalin, tell me this doesn’t make your adrenalin pump (and if not, I’ll call the morgue for you).




An example of the foregoing:  Loyalties.  Now, I know there are people who are fanatical about their baseball teams, and could never change them.  Same with soccer, about which there is terrific passion among devotees; ditto basketball with their legions of die-hard fans.

For me, I can shift a bit on those.  Hank Aaron started me on the Braves; I lived in Texas growing up and the Astros were “our” team (never have, to this day, developed an interest in the Rangers).  I can shift a little on baseball, can go back and forth between the Astros and the Braves.  Basketball, well, I really, truly don’t have a favourite.  I guess the Spurs, because I lived in SA when they came in; I can support the Rockets (when they’re good); never developed a taste for the Mavericks and certainly don’t care about any of the rest of the NBA.  Meh, as the kids say.




The View From My Room Having been an Arkansas Razorbacks fan since 1957, I don’t think I’ll change any time soon.  Houston freaking Nutt just about killed it for me---but not quite.  I can still picture a packed Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, crowd roaring, as time expires and the roar morphs into the Hog Call:





That one is engrained into my psyche on a deep level.  I get mad at them; I get glad with them; I go through all sorts of emotions with them, but the bottom line is, I’ll be a Razorbacks fan till I die.

For those of you who don’t care for football, you can tune out my blog for a few months.  I’m planning to be a lot more active with posting this year, and it’s going to be mostly about the sport that, like water, is necessary for my continued existence.

Westmere Representing


Welcome my friend Trent to the blogosphere!  He writes some very amusing and insightful stuff on his new blog, The South Endzone.  Give it a read!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom!


Joy Marg Martha Joy D Charlene 1954 2 Martha Tarkington Jones, 1954

August 6, 1926 – August 6, 2009 = 83 years young today.

We love you.


(And thanks, Aunt Joy, for the picture; I’d never seen it before.  It’s instantly one of my favourite pictures of her, because it really captures her personality).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How ‘bout them Cowboys!

I had the pleasure of touring the new stadium last weekend, with a couple of friends.  It is GREAT, so much better than Texas Stadium (good riddance).  They were getting it ready for the upcoming Paul McCartney concert, so no turf and they were working on it.  It smells like new paint and carpet inside  :-)

The size is just amazing.  It’s the biggest indoor stadium in the world, and it looks the part.  Frankly, you can also see where all the money went to build it.  (Often, you look at something and say, “well, it doesn’t look like all that”; well, trust me, this does look like “all that”).

You may love Jerry or hate him, but he is a marketing genius (what could he and Sam Walton accomplished if you had paired them?  Total world domination?).  This place is a terrific venue for all kinds of functions.  It’ll host every major event in the Metroplex for the next 20 years. 

And, it just oozes Cowboys tradition from every corner.  I LOVE IT.

Frankly, I was dazzled. 

All photos Copyright Nick Jones 2009; any use without prior written authorization by the owner strictly prohibited.

A few snaps (clicking on the photo shows it full-size):

^ Plan is for this to be a video board



^ The support struts are just massive, unbelievable. 


^Concourse, main floor

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^ I love stitched photos; this is the whole thing.  It's just huge.  Tour Guide told us you could stand Lady Liberty on the field, and the top of her crown would still fit inside with the roof closed.  (Click this one for full effect)

^ Note to self:  do not apply for this job.

^ Lots o' tiers o' seating.  The glass walls of the skyboxes can be open or closed, depending on the wishes of the skybox owner.


DSC_0341 Stitch
^ I stitched these three photos together and left it in a weird shape so you could see the whole effect; one of the private lounges.

^ You can take the boy out of Arkansas, but you can't take the Arkansas out of the boy.  Note the next-door neighbor (from windows of same lounge).

^ Looking down into another of the lounges

^ View of the field from the home-team broadcast booth (where Brad and Babe will sit)

^ The Cotton Bowl offices have moved out to the new stadium.  Leading up to them are the greatest plays in Cotton Bowl History, etched in granite outside, then on the glass at the main doors.  Ahem.  Read the inscription.


^ In the Cotton Bowl offices

^ Ouch. Gotta pay for it somehow.

^ The Ballpark, with a game going; skyline of Dallas barely visible on right.  (click on the photo for detail)

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^ Huge movable glass doors facing east (click on the photo for detail)


^ See the little triangle-shaped glass box under the rim of the third level?  The Jones Family private box.  This is as opposed to Jerry's box, wherein he will entertain (it's right above; there's a private elevator).  This is for Jerry and his personal family to watch the game.  The tour guide said that he didn't know if there was a direct link between this box and Wade Phillips' headset.


^ Cowboys locker room entrance

DSC_0405 copy 2

^ Me in front of my future locker, when the Cowboys finally come to their senses and hire me as star wideout.  Ok, ok, I realize it’d be a more believable fantasy at O-line.

DSC_0407 copy

^ Inside the Cowboys locker room

^ Entrance to the Field-Level Club

^ View from Field Level Club

DSC_0414 Stitch (2)
^ Field Level Club


Original Dallas Cowboys Fight Song, intro to the Tom Landry Show  (click the link on this fan website)

Dallas Cowboys STAMPEDE!

Go! Go! Dallas! Cowboys!
Dallas Cowboys stampede down the field,
See the defense reel and watch 'em fall.
Blockers out in front to clear the way,
Show 'em how to win 'em all.
Loyal Cowboy fans stand up and cheer,
Let the whole world hear our bugles blow.
Stand Up! Stampede!
Go you Dallas Cowboys, Go!
Go! Go!
Go Go Go - Cowboys!
It's the gold team of the senior pros,
Let the whole world hear our bugles blow.
Stand Up! Stampede!
Go you Dallas Cowboys, Go!