Football in grass

A pigskin football lying in the grass against a black background for placement of copy.

Tusk to Tail: When you’ve lost that loving feeling, and are waiting for what’s to come

“November sun is felt by none.
A chilly breeze has blown my thoughts to what’s to come.”
– “Driving Song” by Widespread Panic

They say kids and yoga pants do not lie. So maybe it wasn’t the best idea to shove a microphone in front of Craig May’s 10-year-old daughter on live television. Mallory was asked how it felt to join her dad for Saturday’s Razorbacks game.

“My brother didn’t come because he thinks that they’re horrible,” she told the Little Rock reporter, who was now scrambling to regain control of the shot before Mallory concluded, “it’s a waste of money.”

The moment was preserved and shared as most of life is these days: on somebody’s smartphone, uploaded to Facebook. The video has since gone viral, logging far more views at the time this was written (45,000) than actually braved the cold, blustery morning game. At this rate, it will soon exceed the farcical 64,153 the University claims attended on Saturday.

I’ve watched the vid multiple times myself, practically breaking it down like the Zapruder film at this point. Mallory’s comments are cute, but the real prize lies in May’s astonished expressions. Where on earth would children learn to say such things? Surely not from their dad. The Godfather of Tailgating has bought every ticket and traveled every mile to see all but one of the 237 Arkansas football games since 1999. When his household declares going to games to be a waste of time and money, there is a shift in the Razorbacks force.

And you know he’s not alone.

After the Coastal Carolina debacle, Tusk to Tail joked that this season could be the Hogs’ Cronkite moment. If they have lost May, they have lost the Middle Americans who choose to spend every Saturday with the Hogs (4-7, 1-6 SEC) for a quarter of the year.

And that was before Jeff Long’s body was thrown out the door.

It seems evident that this season finally upset enough of the right class of donors and season ticket holders, the ones between the 40s or behind the glass. It’s a perverted electoral system that does not give equal vote to the guy in the upper deck who brought his family with tickets he got from a neighbor or friend. It’s a pity, because they are who saw it coming. They have prophesied across the radio airwaves and internet message boards that the program was going to hell in a bucket ever since that carpetbagger Long sold his soul to Pepsi.

So who will be the next AD? I can’t tell ya yet, but it won’t be Long!

In the meantime, the AD reins were handed to Julie Cromer Peoples, who said all the right things in her first press conference as Interim AD. Ms. Peoples likely logged more than 10,000 steps Saturday trotting back and forth onto the field to present this or shake hands with that. TTT hopes she is a legitimate candidate for the job, and not just awarded the interim title as a token courtesy by our Good Old Boy Network, err… I mean Board of Trustees.

Long’s sudden termination all but certainly seals the fate of Bret Bielema, and the Razorbacks played like these were the final days with the coach, for better and for worse. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose. That had to be the logic calling a long pass play on 4th and 2 from our own 44 with the score tied and just over three minutes left to play. The defensive effort to that point, led by Sosa Agim’s 9 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 forced fumbles, was the most inspired performance since the TCU game in week 2.

Unless you’re playing Madden or know you are about to be fired, the obvious choice was to punt. The logical choice was your go-to short yardage play, the one you can always count on for a first down. But the inevitable result was an incompletion, another obscure Razorbacks receiver to be scolded by the bitter QB with a bum shoulder.

Mississippi State had no problem scoring the winning touchdown on a clock-draining drive. It was Bielema’s 12th loss after holding a lead of 14 points or less in the 4th quarter while at Arkansas.

Of course the guy who runs Steamboat, our go-to short yardage play, has been suspended indefinitely. Quarterback Cole Kelley was arrested for suspicion of DWI just a few hours after returning from the thumping down at LSU. While incarcerated, Kelley was likely issued the same type of shower shoes that Bielema wears around the athletic complex. Surely Kelley wore it better after a night at the club. Unshaven and bleary eyed, Coach tends to look like a walking mugshot during the season.

I’m not trying to pile on the dead coach walking. TTT has joked at the Arkansas coaches’ expense since we first started doing this nearly six full seasons ago.

But I saw something Saturday for the first time since we moved operations to the Victory Village Big Top. Nobody wanted to stay at our tailgate. The weather and game were both so bad that if you weren’t in the stadium, you might as well stay home.

I heard that more students attended Friday night’s basketball game against Fresno State than showed up for the SEC football matchup against the 17th ranked Bulldogs. Some of the students were seen wearing bags over their heads.

Perhaps Greg Houser delivered the most fitting eulogy as we poured one final round for our walk to the game.

“The day the tailgate died,” he said, unplugging the TV for the next-to-last time this year.
Editor’s note: Welcome to the sixth season of Tusk to Tail – 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. Members of the Tusk to Tail Team are Sean Casey, Jack Clark, Dale Cullins, Greg Houser, Craig May, and David Rice. Tusk to Tail is managed by Talk Business & Politics against the advice of attorneys and family. The diehards may also be followed on their Facebook page. Or follow the crew on Twitter — @TuskToTail