Tusk to Tail: It’s a family tradition (Updated)
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I learned the importance of college football at an early age. I was one day old, to be exact.
I was born on New Year's Eve in the suburbs of Los Angeles. As the last of seven children, allowing my parents to claim a year for a dependent alive for one day seemed like the least I could do.
How did my dad repay me? By leaving Mom and me in the hospital while he took my brother up to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl. As you could imagine, I spent most of the night crying and drowning my sorrows in milk. I didn't speak to anyone for at least a year.
By that time, our family was moving back to Arkansas. My grandfather Paul May, known as Babo to his grandkids, wasn't doing so well. His health was failing, and his businesses weren't doing much better. My dad left his successful consulting firm and the California rat race behind to go help his father in law.
I was only 4 when Babo passed away. Most of my memories of him are based on photographs and home movies. But I feel his spirit every autumn Saturday.
Babo was at each home game in an era when getting from Camden to Fayetteville wasn't easy. Nothing got between him and the Razorbacks. One freezing afternoon, Babo slipped on a patch of ice walking to the stadium. The fall shattered the glass pint he had brought to keep him warm during the game. Undeterred, he walked to the Gentleman's room, removed the largest slivers of glass from his hip, assumed the wound was anesthetized by the whiskey, and proceeded to watch the Hogs kick some Southwest conference ass.
Babo's seats on the 50 yard line were chosen by him roaming the stadium until he found the perfect spot. I share those tickets with my parents and son, marking the fourth generation to spend their Saturdays in the same exact spot. Finding his $6 ticket stubs from the "Great Shootout" with Texas in 1969 has prompted me to save tickets to most of the momentous games I attend.
Of course I wouldn't have attended any games if it weren't for my parents. I remember being pulled from "nursery school" as we called pre-kindergarten to spend game weekends in Fayetteville. I didn't always get to go to the games back then, but I still remember the family talking about this mythical figure named Calcagni.
Like so much of our state, my coming of Razorback age began with the 1978 Orange Bowl. I fell asleep before it ended, but no matter; one of the local channels played it again that weekend. My parents bought me a shirt to remind me and everyone else that we whipped Oklahoma 31-6. There was no need to look up that score for this story. I remember it as clearly as Lou Holtz's checked pants and glasses.
This weekend, Tusk to Tail descends upon Starkville for the final road trip of the Lost Season. Four of us are taking our sons, ages 10 and under. This isn't the first game for any of them. It's not even the first trip to Starkville for three of them.
My son went to his first game before he was 2, and was starting to attend them fairly regularly a year or two after that. It was cheaper to find a ticket than a sitter.
He has since most likely forgotten more about the Razorbacks than most of us ever knew. He constantly reminds me of scores, stats, and minutiae from games we attended. My mother says he probably didn't have a choice. It's hard to argue when I remember the day he was born as also being the day Matt Jones got his first start for the basketball Hogs.
My son is the same age I was when I attended our 42-11 win over Texas, still considered one of the biggest wins in Arkansas history. Again, no need to look up the score.
I ended up losing a girlfriend due to leaving that weekend, but I didn't care. I saw us crush our biggest rival, who was the top-ranked team in the nation. It may also be worth noting that I wasn't even in middle school yet.
Next year, my son enters middle school. Football will most likely remain a spectator sport for him. But it seems worth noting who is coaching his school's team: none other than Ron Calcagni, the quarterback of that 1978 Orange Bowl Champion team.
During a season like this, it is easy to ask why Tusk to Tail keeps traveling for games. But a look up or down my family tree makes the answer pretty simple. It's what we do.
Sticking with the family theme, I invited my 10-year-old son to join us making predictions. He is listed by his initials, “JR.”
• Predict the final score, Arkansas @ Ole Miss
Sean Casey: State 58, Arkansas 42
Jack Clark: MSU 20, Hogs 17 in double overtime
Dale Cullins: Hogs 24, Dogs 21
Greg Houser: MSU 28, ARK 10. Glad you didn’t ask me why.
Craig May: MSU 28, Arkansas 17
David Rice: A win would make next weekend a little more interesting. I’m not sure I believe it, but I will say Arkansas 21, Miss State 20
JR: Arkansas 35, Mississippi State 27
Mark Wagner: Miss State 27, Ark 17
Father Mulcahey: Again, will not pick against the Hogs, but not optimistic.
• Who will be the Razorbacks impact player, and why?
SC: Cobi Hamilton. 327 yards, 2 TDs
JC: Gragg is the impact player. His injury has killed the hogs in the red zone this season. I think we will miss him again this week.
DC: Dennis Johnson goes for 126 yards.
GH: I’m going to follow the Godfather on this one. Dylan Breeding. Field position keeps the Razorbacks from a South Carolina score.
CM: Breeding. The guy is going to be fun to watch in the NFL.
DR: It was nice to see Keon Hatcher score last week. Can he do it again?
JR: Tyler Wilson throws 3 TDs and runs 1.
MW: Dennis Johnson bounces back from a bad game last week.
FM: Dennis Johnson and Tyler. Key for both of them: no turnovers.
• Predict who plays for the BCS championship, and who wins
SC: Bama loses to Notre Dame. (Oddly, Oregon loses to Oregon State and Kansas State loses in their conference championship game).
JC: It appears that Oregon is headed to the NC.
DC: I still think Bama and Oregon play. Bama 31, Oregon 21
GH: Oregon and somebody. Oregon wins.
CM: Oregon and Alabama. Alabama wins. The fact that Oregon hasn’t had to play a complete game this season will hurt them in the Championship Game.
DR: Bama would be heavily favored over at least two of the unbeatens. They need help, but I’ll pick them to beat Oregon.
JR Notre Dame beats Oregon because of their defense.
MW: Oregon and Kansas State. Oregon wins.
FM: Kansas State vs. Oregon, Kansas State wins.
• Pick the winners: Ole Miss @ LSU and Tennessee @ Vanderbilt
SC: Corndogs beat the Black Bears. Tenner upsets Vandy. Think about that.
JC: LSU beats the tar out of Ole Miss. I think Vandy will lead the entire game but find a way lose late in the 4th quarter.
DC: LSU playing well but Ole Miss makes a run at them. LSU 27, Ole Miss 23. Got to go with Vandy 17, Tenner 13 in the other game.
GH: LSU wins over Ole Miss by at least 2 TDs. Vanderbilt plays salty. Vandy by 3. Tennessee takes the loss and will focus on their next coach (like another team I know).
CM: LSU 35, OM 21. Vandy 24, Tenn 14.
DR: I think Ole Miss puts a scare into LSU before folding at the end. The Vols lose another conference game.
JR: LSU and Vanderbilt.
MW: LSU beats Ole Miss and Vandy beats Tenn.
FM: LSU & Vandy.
• Guess the Razorbacks regular season basketball record
SC: Hogs go 20-10.
JC: 20-10. Fourth in SEC, 2nd round of NCAA tourney.
DC: 20 – 10.
GH: B-ball hogs have a 22-8 record. Mike Anderson is a COACH!!
CM: 20-10 for the basketball Hogs.
DR: Only 18 or 19 wins. I don’t think we have the depth to be great yet.
JR: 20-10 because we have good players coming back.
MW: 22-8. First round of NCAA.
FM: 21 wins.
• Bonus predictions and commentary
SC: Dale and Greg wear orange hunting jackets, drive to Columbia Missouri and cheer on Syracuse against Mizzou.
JC: I predict that this road trip will be the least expensive one of the season.
DC: I finally make it out to see a movie this weekend.
GH: Notre Dame stops acting like they are special and finally joins a conference full time in the next 2 years. I expect the Little Rock guys to join the Fayetteville crew and watch a few B-ball games so we can get that taste of losing out of our mouth.
DR: Our coaching search is going to get some people a raise.
JR: I predict that Mr. Craig eats a full rack of ribs, some donuts, a hot dog, 4 pieces of fried chicken, and drinks a beer.
MW: There will be ten different frontrunner rumors concerning the head coach at Arkansas before one is picked. Tusk to Tail will eat ribs at the Rendezvous sometime between now and the Razorback game at Miss State.
FM: So engrossed with his pre-game exercise routine, Greg is late meeting the group for departure to stadium prior to the game. Tired and cranky from a hard night out in the rocking town of Starkville, the rest of Tusk to Tail grows impatient and leaves Greg and his jump rope at the hotel. When the group returns from the game, (an hour late because they had to wait for Mark) Greg, not surprisingly, is still exercising.
Someone will wear sandals to the game at Starkville. This will be a huge mistake because in Starkville they don't have urinals; you just piss into a drain on the floor. For the person wearing sandals, the splatter will teach him a lesson he will not soon forget.
Hiring a Jimmy Sexton client would be far more damaging to the program than a blonde on the back of a motorcycle.