When I lived in Nashville, Tennessee, the office in which I worked was representative of the entire Southeastern Conference. Whether your cry was “Go Big Orange!” or “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, PIG! SOOOOOIIEEEE!!!”, you had a friend in our office. (We had a significant Minnesota contingent as well, it being St. Paul Fire and Marine, so periodically you’d hear “Goh Gohphers!” in a Minnesota accent, followed by derisive sneers from the assembled SEC brethren and sistern—and all the gals in the office were definitely sportschix…).
Of course, being the SEC, we were all rabid football fans, and football season was the highlight of the year. Every Friday was Jersey Day---since we had “casual day” on Friday anyway, the VP/GM relented and allowed us to not only wear khaki’s and sport shirts (that was “casual”), but we could wear our team jerseys.
Fridays were pretty colorful events; the majority wore Tennessee orange, but every color was represented. Periodically, across the office, for no particular reason at all, you’d hear a shout of “Go State! Go State!”, followed almost immediately from another corner by “Hotty Toddy, Gawdalmighty, who the Hell are we? Flim Flam Bim Bam Ole Miss by damn!” “Roll, Tide!” was quickly followed by “WAR DAMN EAGLE!”
I loved it.
My buddy John sat next to me. John was a fascinating dude, having crammed 4 years of college into 8 (the maximum for which his father would stand), majoring in just about everything but finally settling on the fine art of beekeeping as a major (yeah, there’s a lot of call for that, which is why he wound up being a Claim Supervisor). He supervised Property, I had Workers’ Comp.
John was a very proud graduate of the University of Tennessee. Like many Tennessee fans, he bought season tickets to Vanderbilt games just so he could assure himself of a seat every other year when Tennessee played there. I do believe he was matched in his love of the Vols by my dear friend Frank Senter (who sat on the other side of the cube wall from me, and whose obituary I had to write last year, sadly). Between the two of them, the cacaphony of the “Go Big Orange” shouts was a bit much to take.
Our Marketing Rep/Salesdude, Danny, was a likewise rabid fan of the University of Alabama (it’s texass u (spit), without the money…). Danny loved him some Crimson Tide. At the time I was there, Alabama was on an 8-year winning streak against Tennessee; the game headlined the “Third Saturday in October” for the SEC.
Over the years, Danny baited John (Frank, being older and wiser, steered clear—mostly. He, too, egged John on) into making various bets with him, all with the express intent of humiliating John for Danny’s football pleasure.
The main bet, the one that became Legen(wait for it)dary, was the Shirt of Shame.
You have to understand, hope truly does spring eternal in the breast of the Southeastern Conference Football Fan. Every August, each team is invincible. Our quarterbacks are strong of arm and fleet of foot; our wideouts are even more fleet of foot and possess sticky hands; our kickers have strong legs, our linemen mountainous---you get the drill. We are all champions in August.
Every August, Danny would challenge and wheedle John into the Shirt of Shame bet. Danny was a very convincing soul; he would have poor ol John eating out of his hand. “Awww, man, we ain’t got NOTHIN this year. Our QB couldn’t start for Middle Tennessee State; we’ve got holes all over both lines; my Grandma could run past our secondary—y’all are going to beat us down so bad, it’s gonna be awful. I may cry.” John would resist at first, but Danny would keep working. “Yessir, this is gonna be Tennessee’s year. Y’all may hang 50 on us. I sure would hate to have to wear that old horrible orange shirt, I’m sure glad you don’t want to bet me this year.”
(The winner got to pick a shirt especially for the loser, and the loser would have to wear the shirt, stand on his desk, and sing the fight song of the winner. John HATED singing “Yay Alabama” while wearing a crimson shirt with white lettering that said “Roll Tide!!! Alabama 31, Tennessee 10”).
John would resist, but pretty soon his resistance would wear down and Danny would have him. Then, on the fourth MONDAY in October, John would once again sadly mount his desk, wearing the Shirt of Shame, holler, “ROLL, TIDE!” and sing “Yay, Alabama”, to Danny’s general delight and hilarity (not to mention the rest of us).
Back in Arkansas, I told this story to my friends, and we all got a good laugh out of it. The title, “The Shirt of Shame” morphed, and took on new meaning under the tender ministrations of first Dour Danny Ford, then Rooty Tooty Fresh and Hooty. Time after time, we’d depart Malvern, flags flying, magnets on, hearts light, with the fight song playing on the CD player, decked head-to-toe in Razorback gear, singing “Arkansas Fight!”, only to sit in some distant Valhalla of College Football like Athens, Tuscaloosa, Auburn, Knoxville, or Baton Rouge and watch the big boys pull our teams’ pants down. Sometimes we’d play ‘em tough, but a lot of times we were just outgunned and outmanned (and in the case of Hooty, CERTAINLY out-coached).
We got to where, when we left Arkansas, we’d carry all our Razorback stuff—and at least one shirt that was green, or blue, or yellow, or plaid. ANYTHING but cardinal and white. If we got the Hell beat out of us, we’d slink out of town, flags down, magnets in the floor---and change into our green or blue or yellow shirts. The Shirt of Shame.
I’ve worn the Shirt of Shame way, way, way too often.
Monday, we left Houston, Texas (where we live now), me, Nathan, Pam, and Marty (who’d flown down from Fayetteville). Flags were flying (in our hearts; the damn things make too much noise on the freeway), magnets on, hearts light. “Arkansas Fight!” blasting out of the speakers. We were New Orleans bound, headed for Arkansas’ first BCS bowl, to the Sugar Bowl for the first time in 30 years, to play one of the traditional powers in college football, the Ohio State Buckeyes.
We went to Bourbon Street, partied our as—er, uh, booty's (thank you, Shirley Q. Liquor) off, dined like Swine at Mister B’s Bistro on Royal; made our way over to the party by the Dome; cheerfully packed the New Orleans SuperDome with rabid, screaming Hog fans. (On the way out of the game, Marty and I heard two Ohio State fans, about our age, saying, “Man! That’s the first time I EVER saw us outnumbered and outyelled at a Bowl game!”).
The game has been discussed endlessly; everybody in two states (plus a whole lot of people nationally, not to mention the entire Southeastern Conference and Big 10 + 1 + 1 Conference) watched it on TeeVee.
It was a fabulous experience except for the final score. I’m hoarse; I’m chafed; I still hurt all over; I’ll probably go to bed as soon as I finish this post. If you were there, you know what it was like. If you weren’t there, know that we screamed our hearts out. In the following pictures, note that they stop about halftime. I stopped taking pictures and started just standing there screaming.
I believe that is the loudest Hog game I’ve ever attended. I know it was the loudest Bowl game. It reminded me of that Auburn basketball game at BWA back when Kareem and Pat and them were playing, where I do believe my throat bled; I know my ears rang afterwards. At this game, the lady in front of me had her hands over her ears the entire second half. As my Dad says, “Piercin’, man! Piercin’!”
We did our best, but we couldn’t bring home the win. But, we were proud of the Hogs. We were proud of our team; of our fans; of our state; of our conference; but mainly of the University of Arkansas.
And you know what? Driving home, we proudly wore our Razorback gear.
We felt no need for the Shirt of Shame.
Herein are the pictures: (I uploaded the larger size; if you want to see full-size, click the pic)
Bourbon always rocks.
Jeremiah, the Henrys, Jim
Fred and Jan
My nephews are such a mess…
Our much-beleaguered server, Marty, Fred (what’d you eat, boy?), Jan
Ginger’s fried oyster po-boy
My dinner (yeah, I was too close without a macro lens); wood-grilled fish with veggies (and my 6th bloody mary above).
Look at the little spot of colour right in the middle…
Calling the Hogs on Bourbon Street
Don’t tug on Superman’s cape…
Nathan and Pam
Marty and some fat old dude
Nick and Nathan, one more Razorback game
Party at Champions Square
Sea of Red
Blair in da house
Mongoose his own bad seff
We made it, Aunt Shorty
I have lots more football pictures, they all look a lot like this one…
Start of the second half
Now really, ya just gotta love this…
Rallying for one last attempt
It was truly deafening at this point
Ahhh, sit down and shut up Tressel, you and your cheating thugs.
Oh, well, Nevertheless, GO HOGS!!!