The sad - but true - thing about being a long-time, passionate Hog fan is that experience has “taught” me to expect heartbreaks like tonight’s. I can palpably feel when we’re about to capsize. Tonight, before the ninth inning . . . after we had squandered our best chance to score in the bottom of the 8th . . . I predicted out loud that we would hit a batter and go on to allow the winning (losing) run. It’s true - i have witnesses. So, as it happened, I just sat there as if I was watching a re-run.
And that’s doggone sad. I wish it weren’t so - but it is. I’ve just developed a sixth sense where the Razorbacks are concerned. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I was spoiled. By random chance, the very first Arkansas team I truly followed was the 1964 National Champions. That was the only sport that mattered in those days (before Eddie Sutton, Norm D and Coach Mac), so the second team I ever followed was the 1965 football team that went undefeated and was only a victory over a 3-loss LSU team from a second National Championship in a row.
That loss was my first taste of bitter reality. Still, at that time, as young as I was, I assumed we’d be in the mix most years and by the time I was 50, we’d have won at least a half dozen other Football Natty’s.
The reality, as we all know, is that - with the one notable exception of our basketball “shining moment” in 1994 (Thanks Nolan!) - we are “0 for my lifetime” in all sports NOT named Track. It may sound whiny to some - and I accept that. But for me, I just expect heartbreak and frustration when we get anywhere near a breakthrough Championship win. I’ve been through too many to NOT think that way. Yes - there HAVE been some very nice, satisfying wins along the way. But every time we get near the summit, something happens; frequently, something borderline bizarre and/or very unlikely.
Heck, I still remember the 2009 Golf National Championship where we were in the finals (match play) with Texas A&M. It was 2 to 2 with the deciding match (Andrew Landry) on 18. His tee shot was in the middle of the fairway, in “position A” - maybe 125 yards from the green. The Aggie he was playing against was about 30 or 40 yards off the fairway, on the side of a hill, in rough that was 6 to 12" tall. The announcers said that it would be a miracle for him to even get on the green.
So what happens? The usually reliable Landry hit an indifferent shot that was way short and then spun back just off the green, leaving about 35 feet for birdie. Then the Aggie hit the shot of his life, stuffing the ball to 3 inches from the cup. Landry conceded the putt, then missed his putt and we finish second when we had the Championship in the palm of our hands - yet again. Ho-hum . . . literally “par” for the course (pun intended).
I was born to be a rabid Razorback fan, and I will die one. Where I originally expected us to win several championships in my lifetime, I moderated those expectations a couple of decades ago and thought we would “probably” win maybe one or two more during that period. But now - I don’t expect to see another one. Oh, I’ll still watch and pull for them, as always. I’m not delusional; I never expect to win them all. But, just one more time, it would be nice to “win the big one”.