Tusk to Tail: 10 years of stories about tailgating highs and lows … mostly lows
“Well it’s been ten years and a thousand tears,
And look at the mess I’m in.
A broken nose and a broken heart,
An empty bottle of gin.”
“Ball & Chain” by Social Distortion
Tusk to Tail started sharing our stories online 10 years ago. We had been tailgating together for at least another 10 years before that. I’m not sure if it was the year we lost to the pandemic or all that time spent day drinking with our SEC brethren, but at some point time turned elastic.
Our group’s early days somehow seem both recent and in the distant past to me. That may be due to the (crimson) elephant in the room: The past 10 years are considered among the lowest points of Arkansas Razorbacks football history. It got so bad, some fans began to kneel in protest during the Hog Call.
After the Bobby Petrino era crashed into a roadside ditch on April Fool’s Day 2012, the program has cycled through four and a half head coaches and an athletic director. The Hogs have endured more rebuilding years than Interstate 40.
It isn’t exactly the Mount Rushmore of college football coaches. Bill Simmons and so many Chinese restaurant menus might call it the pupu platter. John L. Smith. Bret Bielema. Chad Morris served with a two-game side of interim coach Barry Lunney Jr. once Morris was fired. Now Sam Pittman returns for his second season as a Division I head coach.
Pittman has begun to lead a modest turnaround on The Hill, both culturally and on the scoreboard. The Razorbacks’ three SEC victories last season were three more than Morris could muster in two years. At least three more wins were within the Hogs’ grasp despite some bad officiating and attrition due to injuries or COVID-19.
It was enough to leave TTT feeling hopeful despite Arkansas finishing last in the SEC West. Our friend Jeff pointed out that the Razorbacks may be at the bottom of the SEC barrel, but Coach Pittman had us trending back toward the top of the bottom. It made sense when he said it. We might have been drinking.
I would apologize for our lack of professionalism, but in this case we are truly not professionals. We are not highly paid sports writers jet setting to enjoy complimentary concessions in luxurious press accommodations such as Missouri’s Faurot Field.
Tusk to Tail is made of real dyed-in-the-Pantone-201-colored-wool Razorbacks fans. Most of us came of age around the time Lou Holtz’s first squad shocked the Sooners and the world in the 1978 Orange Bowl, and we have been following the Hogs ever since.
“You vote with your wallet” has become a popular phrase these days. TTT buys season tickets and two large tailgating tents at Victory Village, which makes us a customer of Arkansas football. When that customer experience is less than satisfactory, we do what everyone else does these days: get on the internet and bitch about it. After all, the only thing worse than driving 900 miles to get your ass beat is paying a few thousand dollars for that privilege.
Even as the losses piled up, our gang had boots on the ground if not butts in the seats for every home and away game for over 20 years until coronavirus restrictions limited attendance last year. “Following the Hogs so you don’t have to,” we joked back when John L. Smith was the alleged coach.
We’re going to keep following the Hogs and sharing our story here with you. Check back next week for our season preview.
Editor’s note: Now in its 10th year, Tusk to Tail is the sport of tailgating as organized, performed and perfected by a group of Hog fans who have been tailgating together sober and otherwise for more than a decade. The primary focus of Tusk to Tail will be to follow the Hogs through the fans’ perspective with their insightful, irreverent, smart-alecky and sometimes practical style. The diehards may also be followed on their Facebook page. Or follow the crew on Twitter and Instagram, all @TuskToTail.