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Tusk to Tail 2014: Admitting you have a football problem is the first step

story by David Rice

Editor’s note: Welcome to the third season of Tusk to Tail, a special “web reality” presentation of the tailgating experience 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, David Rice and Mark Wagner. Tusk to Tail is managed by The City Wire. Legal representation is iffy at best and professional psychological help is welcome but likely to be ignored.

The diehards may also be followed on their Facebook page. Or follow the crew on Twitter — @TuskToTail

Heading into the 2014 football season, Tusk to Tail may be suffering an identity crisis.  On the one hand, we are the new breed of Arkansas travelers, attending every Razorback football game hither and yon.

We traveled more than 9,000 miles last year alone, flying to exotic Florida swamps and toxic dumps of New Jersey before limping into Alabama and Louisiana to see alleged football games. A professionally driven “Party Bus” essentially became the interstate’s largest open container for our trip to Oxford, Miss.

Our Godfather of Tailgating, Craig May, gained statewide media attention last year for his streak of 106 consecutive games, attending 186 of the187 contests involving the Hogs since 1999. His lone missed game was in 2005, when a perfect storm of social events at home and futility on the field left nobody willing or able to drive to Georgia with him.

May has never had to travel alone since snapping the streak. In fact, the majority of Tusk to Tail were with him for all 12 games last season, despite the Razorbacks setting records for consecutive losses. With all credit due to ZZ Top, we’re bad; we’re nationwide.

Struggles on the field are what left Tusk to Tail stumbling to find our identity. As our first introduction on The City Wire noted: “Tusk to Tail loves the Razorbacks, football, and a good party. The fact we can combine all three in one gorgeous fall afternoon feels like winning before we even walk into the stadium.”

Turns out, we were full of shit. The only thing that feels like winning is winning, and we have the same number of Ws in the past two seasons combined as we had in the first eight weeks of Bobby Petrino’s last year on The Hill.

We called Coach John L. Smith’s 2012 debacle “the season from L,” and last year was our “9,000 mile Trail of Tears.” Who knows what the third season of post-Petrino depression will bring, but one thing is for certain: The Razorbacks have had more rebuilding years than the stretch of I-40 between Forrest City and Memphis.

Despite the team’s slide, readers should not expect to find us criticizing the young men who run through the A on Saturdays. They are still the heroes we pay to see. Sharp words can hurt, and as we learned from quarterback Brandon Allen tackling himself during a touchdown run against Southern Miss last season, Arkansas does not have the depth to sustain a major injury to our starters.

This may be the vodka talking, but Tusk to Tail believes our team got better as last season wore on. Unfortunately the Hogs could not beat a team in the vaunted SEC. We expect to continue to see improvement this year, and hope that finally translates to wins.

In the meantime, we are going to keep on doing what we do, which is pretty much supporting our team by hosting a bacchanalian feast before, after, and sometimes even during the game. Tusk to Tail maintains a harmonious balance with nature. As the wins become fewer, the cocktails get more plentiful. Not to put too fine a point on it, but our tailgate parties have become better than the games. What once was the icing is now the cupcake.

Last weekend, Tusk to Tail convened for our annual “Fall Training Camp,” where we talk football and work on getting in shape for tailgating season through a healthy regimen of steak and liquor. Though more than 30 of us showed up for dinner and drinks on Dickson Street, nobody outside of the few that cover the team for a living attended the football scrimmage beforehand. Many of us had excuses that kept us from the glorified practice, but the excuses were essentially the equivalent of “I have to wash my hair.”

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“It’s not you, Razorback football. It’s me,” may come next unless we start to win some games.

We have clearly become drinking fans with a football problem.

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