an open letter to the Arkansas Sports Media

Members of the Arkansas sports Media. Over the past several years, as the University of Arkansas’s football program has deteriorated, several members of your profession have lashed out at the fanbase for being foolish, unsophisticated Hillbillies that are completely unrealistic in the expectations of the football program. Many of those same media members have suggested that we, the fanbase, Know nothing about the program and should remain silent, keep going to the games, continue to spend lavishly and cheer wildly for the team. And if we do not, we are not “True Fans”. I would like to take some time to answer these allegations against the fanbase. First, most critics have condemned not some, or a portion of the fanbase, but ALL of us. This clearly shows a lack of forethought on your part and a clear lack of basic common sense. Most fans don’t call into sports shows or post on message boards. So a condemnation of ALL the fans is just intellectual laziness on your part. As for expectations, yes. We do expect the University to field a team that is competitive and wins more than it loses. Is this so unreasonable? Perhaps you think that our football program and the fans should just be satisfied and honored to be in the SEC WEST. We should be honored to be the other teams punching bag. Only good for giving thier scout team players a good workout. Perhaps we should become the lovable losers like the Pirates, Browns, or Cubs until recently. I guess the fans sitting down and shutting up would make your lives easier. And you would be less embarrassed to tell all your colleagues at ESPN you live in Arkansas. But as long as the University feels entitled to our hard earned tax dollars, we have a RIGHT to our say. If you don’t like that, move back to Florida or wherever else you came from.

I agree with your sentiments. There is a disconnect between the media and the rank and file Razorback fan. Fans can spend up to a thousand dollars to attend a game once expenses such as lodging, food, gas, tickets and yes, a contribution to the Razorback foundation is factored in. It won’t be cheap for most ticket holders to go see us most likely get the hell beat out of us by Alabama this weekend. We don’t get to dine off the complimentary food trays in the press box. We don’t get free parking and access to most parts of the stadium for free - like media members. The last time I checked, a simple bottle of water costs 4 bucks. At least at some venues, they sell you a cup and you can get soft drinks and ice from a fountain dispenser like you see at a convenience store. The bottom line is the fan is the customer/consumer and not the enemy.

It becomes redundant when the sports talk show host has on some ESPN writer or commentator on to tell us what we already know. We don’t need some guy with a store bought haircut and tasseled loafers who writes a blog for some obscure web site come on to tell us that we stink, or we have a scarcity of SEC quality players in our state or we need to be “patient” for the umpteenth time. We don’t need some 7 figure athletic director to unilaterally hire a 7 figure coach without at least conferring with former players, boosters and even fans on the street to develop a profile of a coach who can come in here and recruit, compete and win games that we should and some that we shouldn’t.

I don’t need my face rubbed in it by some talk show host who did not grow up around here it - all in the name of “objectivity”. I am a fan and a booster and I am subjective. That’s what fans and boosters are. I have been a whole hearted fan of Razorback sports for 50 years. I have had my heart broken (as well as my wallet) hundreds of times when the Razorbacks let me down. Whenever that has happened, I have always have managed to get back on the wagon whenever I have got knocked off. Unlike Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State and fans from other blue blood programs that consider winning an entitlement, it takes real character to be a Razorback fan because winning significant games and championships and doesn’t happen often. I just hope our administrative leadership and the local pundits and talk show blowhards realize that too.

Media personnel are paid to do what they do. I would think that if a sufficient number of disgruntled fans were to clearly and openly register their dissatisfaction with the way sports reporters are phrasing the content of their messaging, - and made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that unless the individual sports reporter drastically altered the tone and texture of his or her personal attacks on the fan-base - that he or she could very well discover that his or her livelihood could be placed in jeopardy as a result of fan-base repudiation and rejection, - - - I truly believe that ploy would carry considerable weight in the ultimate determination of this resolution. The success of those who purvey goods and services for a living generally tend to depend rather heavily upon the goodwill of their customers.

Consumers have choices. If I don’t care for a particular sports reporter’s line of drivel, I don’t patronize his or her product.

I don’t go to a Mexican restaurant to order pizza.

I get your “free market” argument when there are a variety of choices in front of you but in my local market, you have 2 choices from 2 to 6 - Sports Talk and Paul Finebaum. While I respect Finebaum as a journalist, his show is more about Alabama with some discussion regarding Georgia, Auburn, Florida and any other program he feels might threaten Alabama’s superiority. Bo Mattingly and his cadre of millennial admirers spends more time doing jokes about trivial observations and inside humor that is either irrelevant or hard to understand relative to the plight of our programs. In other words, it is simply not very funny. When he has Clay Henry, Dudley Dawson or Mike Irwin on, you may learn something you did not know that is of value but those guys have real jobs that need their attention. I only get an hour (from 6 to 7) of the best show and that is Drive Time Sports. Unlike Mattingly, Randy Rainwater tries to treat all callers with respect and Rick Schaeffer knows his Razorback history. Marcus Elliott is a fair antagonist that makes good points while Fitz Hill brings incredible insight to the recruiting and coaching process. The weekly segment with John Thompson is quite informative as well. Most importantly, all the Drive Time Sports’ guys are Arkansas guys whereas Mattingly came here from Florida as a television personality. While he married an Arkansas girl, he has never impressed me as a guy who bleeds Razorback red. For us, the Razorbacks are our passion. For him, the Razorbacks are his job. When challenged, he gets defensive and simply shows little, if any, empathy to Razorback fans who are heart broken after to a big loss or losses. That’s why I believe the author of this thread is “spot on” in his/her observations.

I understand and sympathize with your availability plight. Due to Finebaum’s obvious fixation upon Alabama, I don’t tune him in. Those - like you - who have an itch for Arkansas Razorbacks news and information which is not being scratched by available sporting sources are undoubtedly somewhat in a quandary. I can only observe that it is impossible to make an apple pie with oranges, - - no matter HOW MANY oranges one might have on hand.

If the satisfactory sources are not there, they’re simply not there, I’m sorry to have to say. Unless there are competitors offering an alternative to the eschewed service, one is pretty much up the creek without a paddle, - - UNLESS a concerted effort to foment and organize an opposition campaign force to effect a desired change in focus can be mounted against a sports media source which might realistically threaten his or her monetary bottom line. Such pressure tactics have been known to be highly effective in the past.

The small town I live in here in Southeast Oklahoma has a grand total of 7 eateries, - - NONE of which would grade out higher that a “C+”. Consequently, I routinely drive to Paris, TX (a distance of 42 miles) to dine out when I feel the need for quality cuisine; I feel the impetus of that compelling need about twice a week, on an average.

In reiteration, I DO understand your frustration with the available Razorbacks reporting sourcing. I would simply repeat my observation that if a SUFFICIENT NUMBER of fans feel that considerable degree of frustration, it would very likely be quite possible to leverage some degree of change through the application of concerted economic pressure, - - making it quite clear to the media person’s employment source that their employee is ruffling a lot of snouts in The Big Hog Pen, - - - - - which could VERY adversely affect their bottom line profits.

Everything you say is true. I bet you and I could put together a program that could certainly rival the 2 to 6 time slot shows we have now just by not being snarky or divisive to the callers that contribute to the content.

I do not doubt the validity of that observation.

I am absolutely stunned that anyone thinks Rainwater is the best option available. Bo irritates me occasionally; RR and crew, constantly. Of course RR lets the callers drive the show, which leads me to fear for the future of the human race listening to those people (Bo’s callers are just as bad but he doesn’t let the inmates run the asylum).

I look at Randy Rainwater as an earnest stand up guy who understands and appreciates the rank and file Razorback fan. He also has on people who have walked the Razorback walk such as Marcus Elliot, John Thompson and Dr. Fitz Hill as a player or a coach. Despite his tendency to blow sunshine up our shorts on all things Razorback - good and bad, Rick Schaeffer knows the history of what has gone on the last 40 to 50 years. Furthermore, I am always impressed with Barry Groomes and his encyclopedic knowledge of high school football in this state. In my view, they are far more credible than the punditry clowns that Mattingly has on who seem to have one message for us: the Arkansas fan base has unrealistic expectations and that makes the Arkansas fan base part of the problem. That message gets old - particularly coming from people who weren’t around for the 1969 game with Texas or the 1978 Orange Bowl or the 1994 Basketball National Championship.

I have said it before, if Arkansans had succumbed to the notion that our expectations are too high by people who don’t know and don’t care about us, then Wal Mart would only be a “five and dime” store at the corner of Walnut and 8th in Rogers Arkansas. Tyson Foods would have consisted of a half dozen brooder houses near Tontitown Arkansas. JB Hunt would have been nothing more than a country truck driver and Jerry Jones would never have owned the Cowboys.