Tusk to Tail: Thankful for those Pigs – the players and Pittman

This year has sucked. Whether you think the coronavirus is blown out of proportion, regardless of whether you think wearing a mask is ridiculous, there’s no denying the impact the pandemic has had on every one of us.

My parents, my brother’s family and I just set a time for our Thanksgiving Zoom call. Even our presidential election was a referendum on whether the previous administration adequately handled the coronavirus.

And when I mean impact, I don’t just mean we have to order drive-through instead of eating in. Just this week one of my good friends decided to close his popular Fayetteville health club after 11 years in business because he could not sustain operations in this environment. Another friend sat on the patio of his restaurant and had a good cry, because even though he was open, there were no patrons in his bar on what normally would have been a bustling Thursday evening.

Even worse, there is no way by this point you don’t know somebody who has become sick or died from COVID-19. It is devastating to hear the stories of people who have become sick, been admitted to the hospital, and never were able to recover. This pandemic has hit close to home for the Tusk to Tail family as well, with relatives and loved ones of our tailgating group falling victim to this awful disease. 2020 has been simply heartbreaking.

So, as I woke up to a dreary, rainy Saturday morning, with no tailgating (again), I thought to myself “this sucks.” Members of our TTT group have talked about it all year, how it doesn’t even feel like a real football season. With limited fans in the stadiums, turning on the early game prior to watching the Razorbacks feels like you’re watching a spring scrimmage.

But, this is the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and it is our collective obligation as turkey eating Americans to find things to give thanks for during this week. My much more heartfelt thank yous are reserved for healthcare workers, teachers, and others who put themselves at risk for exposure to keep things moving every day. However, this is a Razorback sports article, so here is what I am thankful for.

First, I am thankful for the Razorback players who have dressed out this season. It would have been real easy, based on the dumpster fire witnessed over the last two years, for players to say thanks but no thanks. And a few players did opt out due to the health risks, which is completely understandable. But a majority of the roster decided they were going to play football this year, and we as fans truly appreciate that decision.

Second, I am thankful for Sam Pittman and his coaching staff. How easy would it have been to write off this year and say we will just roll up our sleeves and start rebuilding in 2021? To the contrary, Coach Pittman went to work immediately, maximizing what talent he has now on the roster, and more importantly, installing confidence and pride in these young men. That enthusiasm has been contagious (no pun intended) to a Razorback fan base in desperate need of something positive.

For example, coming in to this year, the consensus among any Hog fan was that with an SEC only schedule, we would win somewhere between zero and two games, if we got lucky. But here we are, with a 3-4 record. I am writing this article prior to the 11 a.m. start against the defending national champion LSU Tigers. Last year, we were an embarrassing 42 point underdog to this team, and we needed a late score to cover. We seem to have thin numbers due to COVID exposure, and our starting quarterback is pretty banged up. But you know what I feel pretty good about this game. I think we’ve got a fighter’s chance to win. Vegas seems to think so too.

So, heck yeah I am thankful. Thankful in a year that has sucked, that our Arkansas Razorbacks aren’t just one more reason that 2020 sucks, but are a welcome respite from the realities of this world for a few hours each Saturday afternoon. And, more importantly, we are not just watching out of duty-bound loyalty, we are tuning in because we are proud of the product on the field, and we want to be a part of it.

Give thanks, and Go Hogs!

Editor’s note: Now in its ninth 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.

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