Billy, the old friend from the college days at Arkansas Tech University, called again this week.
He typically calls after a few beers on a Sunday afternoon, but wasn’t able to call until Monday morning because he “and the missus done renewed their wedding vows at Graceland,” and then “stayed over an extra night to do some of that electronic gambling at that dog track they got in West Memphis.”
“You take your woman to see where the King lived and died, may he rest in peace, and then do some of that poker video and get several of those free drinks, and that little wedding anniversary trip ends with a smile on daddy’s face,” Billy explained through the protests of Yours Truly.
Before we move on, Kind Reader should know that Billy is convinced The City Wire will never be a long-term success unless it includes stories about hunting seasons, high school football, NASCAR, and presents a weekly photo feature of a local Hooters girl.
Being a fan of the smaller college football scene, Billy takes immense joy in the present Razorback football program. He said if “them Hogs” were to play “Malzahn’s Red Hounds team” — he thinks they’re wild dogs, and not wolves — “that Jeff Long fella would ‘accidentally’ release Tusk out on the field and personally shoot out the lights with a high-powered rifle and slap around a few of the Burlsworth Kids” just to avoid the embarrassment of what would be a 30-3 halftime score.
“You done brought in a Yankee that is Razorback in name only,” Billy says of University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long, as if I made the decision to hire him. “Trust me. That fancy-talking boy gets a better deal and a fatter paycheck somewhere else and the only Hog he’ll call will come on the menu at a swanky East Coast country club.”
The rest of the phone call went something like the following.
Billy: Answer me this Mr. City Boy with your fancy Tusk to Tail thingy, I saw me a t-shirt the other day and it had 18 on one side, a Hog in the middle and 71 on the other side. Now, the person wearing that shirt told me that it means the school done been around since 1871. But someone else told me it was the expected win-loss record for the football Hogs by the year 2020 under the Jeff Long fella’s tenure. What you got to say about that?
MT: I’d say you’re being a little harsh on Mr. Long. Everyone was singing his praises just a few months ago, but four games into what is admittedly a poor season, and some folks want to hang him high. That doesn’t seem fair.
Billy: Admittedly a poor season? Do you ever stop to listen to yourself? This ain’t no poor season. This is the Hindenburg on top of Hurricane Katrina on top of the Carter Presidency on top of Ishtar.
MT: The easy thing to do is to panic when everything is going wrong. Hopefully Jeff Long is the kind of leader who can remain calm when everyone else is running for the exits. The thing with Petrino and what is happening this year will set the program back a few years, but we need calm leaders to make calm, long-term decisions.
Billy: You often accuse me of being stupid drunk during our conversations, but I think you’re a little deep in the wine cellar. Calm? Did you listen to that crazy sumbitch John L. Smith during his Razorback show after the A&M game?
MT: Did you just call Smith a
Billy: Yes, I did, and here’s why. He told that Chuck Barrett fella that he was proud of the team cause they wore nice suits with ties and nice sweaters and they traveled “very good” going to Texas. Really? They traveled good? Ain’t that like saying the forks and knives were all lined up properly in the dining room of the Titanic?
MT: Look, you’re taking out of context what
Billy: Context, my ass. Smith then said the team just needs to go suit up and make the Auburn trip a business trip. A business trip. This coming from a coach who is $26 million in the hole on a bankruptcy deal.
MT: Let’s not get off track on this bankruptcy thing. That’s a
Billy: And if you think Jeff Long has a tough job, what about good old Mr. Chuck Barrett? He’s got to sit there through those post-game shows with a straight face. Barrett is a Johnson County boy like yourself, so you know he’s just a second or two away from calling bulls%^$ on the whole damn thing.
MT: OK, Billy. You’re obviously fired up about this, but
Billy: I’m not fired up. Hell, I’m enjoying this. But you wanna know how much in denial the Hog program is about losing Petrino?
MT: No, and I’m afraid to ask.
Billy: The official Razorback website page for Chuck Barrett says he is “also the host of The Bobby Petrino Show.”
MT: What? Surely not. (Quick check of website on mobile phone as of Oct. 1 proves Billy is correct. Damn!)
Billy: And the thing with that Barrett show is I keep hearing in my head the Jack Nicholson character in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest asking who wants to watch the ball game. And no one wants to watch the ball game, so Nicholson goes crazy and begins to pretend a ball game is playing on the TV and the other psychos get all agitated and then that Nurse Ratched says,” Gentlemen, stop this. Stop this immediately.” And I’m thinking a lot of Razorback fans are saying the same thing: “Stop this immediately.”
MT: I can’t believe you’re comparing the Razorback program to a movie about a mental institution. I was impressed with the Ishtar reference, but think you are way off base with the Nicholson thing.
Billy: Way off base. Wanna know what is off base? National media folks are making fun of your precious little program. This guy at Deadspin said the team was a bouncy thing.
MT: A bouncy thing?
Billy: Hold on. I printed it off. OK, here it is, he said: “Arkansas is no longer a college football team; it's an inflatable bouncy castle that kids jump on until they get tired and a little sweaty and then go home laughing.”
MT: That’s just mean-spirited, and more proof that it’s easy to pile on when things are tough, but hard to remain faithful.
Billy: Maybe so, but I think that 18 and 71 t-shirt was prophetic.
MT: No way. The big money sponsors won’t let it get to that point.
Billy: Money does talk, but I’m willing to bet I get in more Graceland anniversaries in the next few years than the Hogs get in bowl games. I’ll even throw in a picture of my happy face. Ain’t that what Smith wanted when he told us to “Smile.”
MT: Billy, you are soooo bad. I’m glad nobody is able to listen in to our conversations.