Sunday, August 30, 2009

The House Next to The House Ruth Built

I am not a baseball guy.  Never really have been.  I played as a youth and I will follow the Razorbacks, and I may pay passing attention when the Major League playoffs roll around.  Or not.  But that’s about it.  Too slow.  Four hours of shaking off the catcher’s call, stepping off to check the runner, the manager trotting out to talk things over with his ace.  All for just a handful of exciting plays that decide the outcome of the game.  And to top it all off, single games are just too inconsequential.  162 regular season games?  Seriously?

Nevertheless, in the absence of football, basketball, golf, and horse racing, baseball can serve as a serviceable stand-in, especially in person.  And vacation in The Big Apple being no excuse to put my passion for sport on the shelf, I have to find a place to get my fix somewhere.  What better place to do that on a beautiful summer evening than Yankee Stadium?  What other options do we really have?  Go to Flushing and watch the Mets?  Or…take in the Liberty at Madison Square Garden?  As MUCH as I truly, deeply desire to take in my first WNBA contest, that one will have to remain on the list for next time.  So, it’s decided.  Yankees.  Rangers.  Let’s do it.

First things first, we need tickets.  Fortunately, we took care of this beforehand.  StubHub.  Roughly $60 for two seats on the third base line, way, way up high.  As always, I am willing to sacrifice better seats for convenience, and these are the best pair I could score on the aisle, which is all important if you are a conscientious fatty like myself.  As an aside, let me lament the self-print ticket phenomenon for just a moment.  Yes, it is tremendously convenient.  Yes, it  makes monetary sense for the event host to pass the cost of the resources used in printing the ticket on to the audience.  It’s just not very romantic.  What kind of a crappy keepsake is a black and white printout of a ticket on plain computer paper?  DSC01460


The easiest way for Steph and I to get to Yankee Stadium from our  hotel near Times Square is, of course, the subway.  The B Train, to be specific, from Rockefeller Center to the 161st St/Yankee Stadium stop.  Our car is relatively empty when we board, but fans in Yankee blue pile on at every stop.  The overwhelming majority are wearing navy tee-shirt replica uniforms, which I find interesting because the ballclub very rarely, if ever, plays in navy.  Though there are a few in the traditional pinstriped white, they are definitely outnumbered. 

Our train is almost full when we reach the Yankee Stadium stop.  As we exit the car, there is no need to stop and get our bearings.  Good thing, because there is also no opportunity to do so.  We just follow the crush of people funneling up stairs and ramps and through turnstiles.  Progress toward the Stadium is measured in fresh air.  As we ascend one last flight of stairs, we are met by sunlight.  And Yankee Stadium.  It’s, like, right there.  Brand spanking new.  Still pristine.  And right across the street from its predecessor, which is covered up with mesh and tarps and the like.  Very strange, old and new next to each other, especially with the weird veil covering the elder House.  I cannot believe I didn’t take a picture of the old one.

Yankee Stadium!


In a city and region that Stephanie and I are completely foreign to, being herded into a large stadium as part of a large crowd is something that is comfortably familiar.  We are used to this.  Scalpers looking for tickets to buy and sell, piggyback rides atop Dad for the ankle biters unable to keep up the pace, vendors hawking their merchandise with their best pitch, and New York’s finest directing it all.  There is no gate number printed on the ticket, so we are left to wonder exactly where to enter.  I decide we should walk around a bit, and we make it roughly halfway around the ballpark before Stephanie is bored with this and directs me to go in.  Two very pleasant gentlemen without a line beckon us to enter through their turnstile.  They check Stephanie’s bag and look at my cell phone, scan our “tickets” and we are through.  Section 428, Row 10, Seats 1-2 here we come!

But first I want to buy a program.  Except it isn’t a program.  It is an issue of Yankees Magazine with an insert inside containing information for today’s game.  Rosters, updated statistics, that sort of thing.  And it costs $10.  Whatever, it’s a great keepsake, right?  There is an old man selling them right in front of our entrance with no line, so I walk up to purchase one.

Me:  One program, please.
Vendor:  Which one?
(I notice at this point that in addition to the $10 program, there is a $25 “yearbook” or some such nonsense also available for purchase.)
Me:  The $10 one, please.  A game program.
Vendor:  How many do you want?
Me:  One.  One program, please. 
Vendor:  That’ll be ten dollars.
(I hand the man a $20 bill.  He takes it and looks at it.)
Vendor:  Do you have anything smaller than this?
Me:  I’m sorry?
Vendor:  Do you have anything smaller than a twenty?  You don’t have a ten-dollar bill?  Or two fives?
Me:  What??? No.  I don’t.  You are selling $10 programs and you can’t break a twenty?  Are you serious?  Just…give it back.
Vendor:  What?
Me:  Give it back.  Give me my money back. 
(I am out of patience at this point and snatch it out of his hand without asking again.)
Vendor:  Don’t you want a program?
Me:  Not from you.

My one bad experience in New York.  We find another vendor in another part of the stadium, and I ask him beforehand if he can break a twenty.  He, of course, looks at me like I’m from Mars and says “sure”.  I explain that one of his colleagues lacked either the desire of the ability to do so, and he is as incredulous as I am.  I feel vindicated.  But more than that, hungry.  We need to find our seats.



Three sets of escalators and many, many feet skyward later, we are making our way along the concourse toward our section in the upper deck.  Or upper, upper deck.  However many decks there are, we are in the upperest.  We are way up there.  We eventually get there and settle into our seats.  Just like with Razorback Stadium, the greens seem a little greener here.  All the colors are more vibrant.  This is one gorgeous place.  The field is immaculate.



There are ribbon boards EVERYWHERE.  A massive Mitsubishi HD video board in center field.  And in the distance, out past center and left field, the Bronx extends into the evening.  Stephanie and I make guesses at the rent of the residential buildings in the distance.  We come to the conclusion that we really have no idea.  What we agree on is that we most certainly pay less, and get more.  But, then, we can’t walk to Yankee Stadium, either.



After finding our seats and sizing them up, we turn our attention to food.  We had peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, and we are both starving.  The concession stand closest to our section serves typical ballpark food.  Nathan’s hotdogs, and Johnny Rocket’s burgers and fries.  A 12oz beer in a clear plastic cup is $6.  We get a couple of dogs, a small order of fries, one small beer, and a coke in a Souvenir Cup.  $27.  After getting gouged everywhere in the city all day, this actually feels like a deal.



You may be wondering why I’ve used 1300 words to this point and haven’t even made it to the ceremonial first pitch (thrown by reigning U.S. Open Champion and huge Yankee fan Lucas Glover.  How do you get to be a Yankees fan from South Carolina?)  If you are, you’re probably also wondering how.  I’m long-winded.  And the game was excruciatingly boring.  Joba Chamberlain is coming off of eight days rest for the Yankees, and it shows.  As I mentioned, I already have a hard time staying interested in baseball, and this one apparently is a dud for even the diehards. 

The Yankees start off fast, scoring four in the bottom of the first, thanks in part to a timely double from Matsui.  Jorge Posada  rips one into the right field bleachers, prompting a rousing rendition of “Hip Hip Jorge!” from the crowd.  This will prove to be the highlight of the evening for the Yanks.  Chamberlain suffers from some control issues, and displays a knack for getting himself into trouble with two outs.  The final blow in his short outing is a five-run fourth inning after having two outs and nobody on.

Much more interesting than the baseball are the people.  The dad and his daughter sharing a game in the seats next to us.  The large and well-served man in the next section with the John Daly haircut and the custom made Yankees jersey that reads “Marlboro Man” on the back.  He leads every chant and cheer, and does so with gusto.  The city prosecutor across the aisle who shows up in the second inning with a thick manila envelope full of files to work through.  Then there is the youngish guy two rows down wearing a Yankees tee shirt and cap, but also with a Rangers cap perched on top of his Yankees cap.  Obviously one of those who validates the word fan being derived from the word “fanatic”, this cat keeps a book on the entire game.  If he needs to make, or needs a beer, his friend in the next seat takes over.  Every at-bat is recorded for posterity.  Now, I know that this isn’t that out of the ordinary.  But this guy doesn’t  keep score on the scorecard insert located inside the program.  He keeps his own book that he brings, and it is chock full of previous games he has scored.  Lots and lots of them.  Through Stephanie’s special talent for eavesdropping, we learn that he is a huge fan of both the Yankees and the Rangers, and HAS SEASON TICKETS TO BOTH TEAMS.  That’s 81 games apiece.  In separate time zones.  And this dude is in his early 30s.  Maybe.  Where can I get that job?

By far the most interesting people to watch is the extended Jewish family in front of us.  Two men in their 40s or 50s,  obviously brothers.  The wife of one, and their teenage sons.  Some other, younger children down the row, parents undetermined.  As far as I can tell, they are the quintessential New York Jewish family.  Loud, pushy, argumentative, nosy, and extremely, extremely close.  Watching them is at once familiar and completely alien.  The dynamic of a tight-knit family unit is as Southern as you can get, but the words, the accent, and the attitude is all wrong.  Truly enchanting to watch.  And the yarmulkes.  Stephanie is fascinated by them.  Why do they wear them?  When do you start?  Why aren’t the teenage boys wearing them?  And how do you spell yarmulkes?  She needs to know this so she can update her facebook status from the stadium and comment on the family in front of us.  Sitting next to each other, we text back and forth, arguing over the correct spelling of the word.  I tell her that I’ll just ask them, and she asserts that we will have to leave if I do.  In the end, we are both wrong.  But, as usual, I am less wrong. 


The Rangers are comfortably ahead now.  10-5.  The Yankees bats have gone silent, and Stephanie is ready to go.  I make a deal with her that if things do not improve for the Bronx Bombers, we will leave after the seventh inning stretch.  But we HAVE to stay to stretch.  She agrees this is fair.  So we sing “God Bless America”, and we sway to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”.  We even stay for the bottom of the seventh, as New York has the meat of their order coming up.  They, of course, get nothing, and we head for the exits.  Most of the 46,000 in attendance have the same idea, as the subway is even more packed than on the ride up. 

Later in the evening, after we take an elevator to the top of the Empire State Building and back down again, we walk into a random Irish pub called Foley’s and get plowed.  Sitting at the bar, we catch the highlights and find out that the Yanks rallied in the bottom of the ninth only to come up one run short.  We are simultaneously disappointed the home team did not win and relieved that we didn’t miss a successful comeback win.  The bartender at Foley’s, Brian, is originally from Ohio, and naturally a huge Buckeye fan.  Leaning on a wooden bar top, talking college football to a complete stranger, I am back in my element.  This is my sport.  My area of expertise.  What I always come back to.    But just for tonight, I allowed myself to be a baseball guy.  And despite cheering for the losing team, and despite a boring game, and despite my first experience with a rude New Yorker, I had a great time.  I needed my fix, and Yankee Stadium gave it to me.  And it was good.



Monday, August 24, 2009

Blue Hen Update

Stephanie and I just crossed into Delaware on I-95 on our way from Washington, D.C. to The Big Apple, New York, New York. We spent a fantastic weekend with soon-to-be contributor to this blog Karl O. and his SO. Thanks to their hospitality, and Karl’s keen navigating skills (and his SO’s parallel parking skills), we were able to enjoy our nation’s capital as both tourists and locals. Monuments, museums, and local hot spots, all without once venturing onto a bus, cab, or Metro car. We’re in New Jersey now, by the way. Perhaps I should change the title to the Scarlet Knight Update.

Traveling up here is not the same. The major highways of the south, to me, at least, are broken up into football teams and conferences. Travel I-40 east out of Arkansas into Memphis and you enter an area competing for fans. The Universities of Arkansas, Mississippi, Memphis, and Tennessee all have significant alumni and fan populations here, and people are not shy to show their affiliation. Highway 78 is Ole Miss country until you cross the border into Alabama, at which point the Crimson Tide rule the day.

The major cities of the South are either strongholds of a certain school, or furiously contested hotbeds of competing loyalties. The University of Alabama dominates the western part of its state, and for the most part can claim Birmingham, although an Auburner would likely dispute that. Does Atlanta belong to Georgia or Georgia Tech? The answer to that is up for grabs, but rest assured one visit will alert you to the fact that a war is indeed going on there. As my wife and I travel up I-95, the most densely populated, most highly educated, and most diverse portion of road in the United States, I am struck by the relative silence of the journey, at least as far as football goes. There is no turf war here. There are no Penn State Nittany Lion license plate holders here. No University of Maryland Terrapin car magnets. No tattered Rutgers University flags flying out the windows of passing cars.

Out of the thousands of cars I have seen since Friday night, there have been maybe five that have had any sort of school-associated artifact on them. Back home in Little Rock, it’s hard to pass five cars without seeing a Razorback. My own vehicle has a University of Arkansas Razorbacks state-issued license plate that I pay extra each year for, along with a faux-chrome Razorback on the back. Not to mention a Razorback magnet. This is not for game days. This is year-round.

Not up here. 15 million people within 50 miles of this highway, and I can’t even get one single “Calvin pissing on _____” sighting. Discouraging, to say the least. And this region is home to ESPN! Remember, the network who proclaims that “college football lives here”? At this point in my journey, I must ask… “Where?”

That’s all for now. New York is calling. I will let you know how my plan to break into the Downtown Athletic Club and pee on the portraits of Troy Smith and Tim Tebow turns out. Most outstanding player, my ass. But I’m not bitter or anything.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Don't let it fool ya, this highway's mean

The season should begin in Fayetteville.

Starting in Little Rock, or worse yet, on the road, is just unnatural. It doesn't compute. Just boogers up the whole works. Because, for me, football season officially begins with that first trip up The Hill. Kickoffs are anticlimactic, but that drive never fails to live up to my expectations. For nine months, I look forward to carrying out the rituals that have been developed over the years, and I also find myself wondering what new traditions might begin this season. I wonder if everyone else... or, at least,
anyone else, could get so excited over a 200-mile road trip.

It usually starts on Thursday night with my wife bugging me to pack. She starts around 6:30. "Have you thought about what you're going to wear this weekend?"


As the night progresses, she will ask several more times, and I will stall, distract her, pretend to not hear her, and generally avoid the issue altogether until bedtime. At this point, I walk into the bedroom to a fully packed suitcase and an angry wife. "What!?!?," I'll say. "I came up here to pack. I didn't ASK you to pack for me! I would have done it myself! So...did you remember to pack basketball shorts for me? The cell phone charger? Short socks? Long socks?"

This does nothing to improve the situation. But it is kind of fun. She hasn't failed to forgive me yet.


really begin at quittin' time on Friday. I race home, filling the tank on my way, and we pack Tara the XTerra and make final arrangements. This means stickers on the doors and pom-poms flying out the windows. In a perfect world, I've been to the car wash a couple of days prior. Do I have all the shoes I need? Medicine packed? Stephanie's pillow in the car? Do you want a drink for the road? No, it will just make me have to pee. Well, okay, maybe I'll have THIS BIG ASS CAFFEINATED DRINK because you aren't in a hurry to get there at all. Tickets? They are in the suitcase. I don't want them in the suitcase. I want to be able to see them at a moment's notice. This is an argument. If you want them in the suitcase then I need to see you pull them out of the suitcase and put them back in, because I didn't see it the first time.

I am pretty much insufferable at this point. Which is about 5 minutes into Football Weekend.

Aaaand we're off. So long, Little Rock! See you on the other side of Woo Pig Sooie!

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Aaaand we're stopped. Traffic. Morgan-Maumelle. I ask Steph what the Visions strip club used to be called before it was Visions. For some inexplicable reason, I expect her to know this. Even more inexplicably, she does. It doesn't happen every year, but we have had this exchange more than once.

Having patiently waited for her to fall asleep, I seize control of the radio and change the station from Alice 107.7 to 103.7 The Buzz to listen to Drive Time Sports for as long as I can stand it. Somehow, Stephanie bitches about this even while sleeping.

Blackwell smells like shit. It smells so strongly of shit that it rouses my wife from her slumber so that she can inform me.

"UGH! It smells like shit! Where are we???"


"Didn't Blackwell smell like shit the last time we went through here? How far is it to Russellville? I'm starving. And I have to pee."

We have made it 58 miles.

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By the time we reach Russellville for our traditional stop at CJ's Burger Boy off of Exit 81, I am nearing full-on "Five Minutes to Wapner" mode. I have called my boy BFA at least once to talk about the game. He has called me at least once. And I call him again here to rub it in that I'm eating at CJ's on my way to Fayetteville, and to remind him that he is in DC. It's tradition. Especially since he is the one who introduced me to CJ's.

I won't give a full-on review of CJ's. I will just say that they serve burgers, fries, soft drinks, and milk shakes. That's it. And they are awesome. And I know good food. Great find, BFA.

By the way, pointing out the Razorback sign on the bluff outside of Atkins is
not a tradition for us. Because we always forget to look. In case you were wondering, that is why it is left out. Personally, I think pickles is a way better legacy, anyway.


Off again, hurtling through the Arkansas River Valley at breakneck speeds of up to 77 mph and always on the lookout for the fuzz, we continue to progress toward Fayetteville. I point out the site along Lake Dardanelle where, in the construction of the late 1990s and early 2000s, massive Razorback flag hung from the top of a crane to greet Hog fans on their way up to watch the game. Unlike Atkins, this Razorback was impossible to miss, and very cool to boot.

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Later in the season, I will look forward to passing through Clarksville to see if high school football is being played at Panther Stadium that evening. Not that I have any affinity with Clarksville...I just like to affirm at every chance that yes, high school football is in fact still in existence, and has not become extinct since the previous week. But for the Razorback opener, played before the high school season begins, Clarksville is just another blip on the map. Just one more town with a McDonalds and a giant porn store.
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We've made it to Ozark. Stephanie has to pee. It has been, after all, 44 miles since she last peed. And again, it's not like I am antsy to get up there or anything. There are two types of people in the world. Those who stop at the Loves in Ozark, AR. And those who stop at the Shell in Ozark, AR. We are Shell people. It has a McDonald's in it, and Stephanie proclaims that the Coca-Cola at McDonald's is somehow better than the Coca-Cola everywhere else in the world, except for Mexican restaurants, who also have "good Coke".

Leaving Ozark is typically where I place a call to our host for the weekend, our friend Stephanie. Not to be confused with my wife Stephanie, who is called Lil' Steph by this particular group of friends. It is during this call that I will make my bold prediction on the exact time of our arrival in Fayetteville, with Stephanie the Hostess telling me that I am crazy and that we will never hit that mark. This is serious business that gets down into syncing up clocks and establishing an acceptable margin of error. At several points during this conversation Stephanie the Hostess asks how Stephanie the Wife hasn't killed BVC the Husband yet. The answer, of course, is that I'm charming as hell.

Things start to happen quickly now. Landmarks pass as I become even more focused on directing Tara the XTerra quickly and safely into Hog Heaven. There's the entrance to the Pig Trail. There's that golf course just outside of Alma that I have always wanted to play. And finally, at long last, off of Exit 12, is the John Paul Hammerschmidt Highway, better known as Interstate 540. Only 44 miles from paydirt.

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Except Stephanie has to pee again. Seriously? It's been 25 miles.
25 miles! She wants to stop at the new truck stop in Rudy. This is a new tradition that has sprung up in the past couple of years. I have nothing against the town of Rudy and her fine people, but I'm trying to keep this one from becoming too entrenched. We never made this stop before, and Stephanie hasn't pissed herself yet, to my knowledge. I typically will decide to fill the tank here, because gas is at least a dime more expensive than anywhere else I have seen on the trip, and that is the kind of idiotic shit that I do.

I call Stephanie the Hostess and bicker with her over a revised arrival time. I accuse her of conspiring with my wife and her teeny bladder to cause me to miss my mark. I then accuse her of calling and distracting me, causing me to unintentionally drive slower and hurting my chances even further. She points out that I was the one who placed the call. Damn. However, my first accusation stands on its merit, I feel.

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Hold your breath through the Bobby Hopper Tunnel!

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Okay, exhale. Why do we do this every time?


Same as most everyone else, I suppose, the highlight of the trip is cresting that hill just outside Greenland and seeing Fayetteville and Razorback Stadium in the distance. This sight most often causes me to turn off the radio and put in my "Razorback CD". I sing along through the alma mater, I dance in the driver's seat to William Tell, and I do the hog call. For the record, this is the only time it is EVER acceptable to take both hands off of the wheel and steer with your knees. I finish everything up with the fight song right as we pull into Stephanie's driveway. Right on time. She'll try to claim we're late, but I know she's cheating. Her husband sides with me. My wife sides with her. Shocking.

I cannot describe how good it feels to be in Fayetteville on Friday night before the first football game of the season. Stephanie is ready to go to bed. This boggles the mind. There is so much to do. Go to the liquor store. Ice down the beer for tomorrow.
Drink the beer for tonight. We will sit on the patio and swill beer and talk and laugh late into the night. The Razorbacks are seldom mentioned. There are nine months to catch up on, and everyone knows that discussion tomorrow will be limited to one topic, and one topic only.

Tomorrow is game day.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why buy The Gravel when The Gibberish is free?

Today was the best day of the year. Aside, of course, from my 1st wedding anniversary that I celebrated last weekend with my lovely wife. Who is watching from across the bed at the moment, pretending to read a book but instead secretly reading every word of this. Love you, honey.

Yes, this second-best day of the year is SEASON TICKET ARRIVAL DAY. And it was better this year than ever. Just yesterday I called the Razorback Ticket Office to verify my tickets and check to see if my request for seat improvements was met. It was. Upper West Side! So long, sun... now the only thing I can blame a headache on during games with late afternoon kicks is... a hangover. Natalie, the girl at the Ticket Office, told me that tickets were printed and would be mailed out early next week.

Then today, the very next day, my wife tells me the tickets arrived. Bam! Just like that. No checking the mailbox with mounting anticipation. No pangs of worry creeping into the back of my mind. No thoughts of setting up a camera to record on a 12-hour loop the inaction on my front porch. None of that. Just the tickets. Today! If that anniversary breakfast at Cracker Barrel wasn't so freaking kickass last week... just kidding, babe. The grits put last week over the top.

So, anyway, included in the ticket envelope this year was a pamphlet...or a flyer. What do you call a one page, one-sided marketing insert anyway? Whatever it was, it was for a product/service called Live Sports Radio. For $20, you can purchase a doohickey like the one featured at the top of this post. Throw it in your ear, and you can hear the radio broadcast from your home team in and around the stadium, whether your team is at home or you are following them into enemy territory. The earpiece works for one season, after which it functions only as a regular FM Scan radio, forcing you to buy another new earpiece the following year.

The major selling point for this Live Sports Radio is that there is no delay between the action on the field and the action in your ear. Traditional radio headsets catching FM waves from normal radio towers experience a delay of a few seconds between what is going on in the game and what is being described in your head. Because Live Sports Radio "re-broadcasts instantly" the radio production from a "special transmitter" designed solely for those earpieces, eliminating delay.

If you breezed through the past couple of paragraphs the way that I would, I'll summarize here. They want you to pay. $20. To hear Chuck Barrett. Faster.


It dawned on me that the idea behind this really isn't a bad one at all. In fact, it's pretty damned genius. If only our radio broadcast team wasn't Really, who is going to pony up a Jackson to listen to Chuck and Keith? Paul Eells was worth $20. With Chuck, you could reverse the monetary equation and I'd be iffy. Are there people who really feel like they need the insight of those two? I have a program. A working brain. A smartphone for stats. I'm good.

And so it goes for Arkansas. Another great product unable to realize its full potential due to shitty implementation. See: D.J. Williams under Houston Nutt. Gus Malzahn. Jannero Pargo. David Bazzel's Root Hog cheer. I'd like to feel sorry for these Live Sports Radio guys, but they should have done their homework.

At the University of Arkansas, we don't make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you'd buy. If they were better.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

We're Number....44?

So, the USA Today 2009 College Football Preseason Coaches Poll came out late last week, and while I must say it gives me great pause to give any credence whatsoever to a body who places a Houston Nutt-led team in its preseason Top 10, I feel the need to acknowledge this meaningless ritual for another reason.


Actually, 43 teams got more votes than Arkansas, including eight SEC teams. The SEC, by the way, accounted for 40% of both the top five and top ten teams, but I won't harp on that point any further due to my distaste with the placement of the Rebels. My solace comes with the knowledge that this will only make their fall even more spectacular.

The nerdiest of sports nerds like to count down past the 25th ranked team into the "Others Receiving Votes" section of the poll, and see where their team is "ranked". I would like to note that I am not this type of sports nerd and would never talk about my team being ranked at any position other than 1-25...excepting the title of this post, of course. No, I am not upset that my Razorbacks are ranked 44th while Auburn is ranked 39th. Because we aren't. And they aren't. Neither team is ranked at all.

I AM, however, outraged at the fact that the Auburn Tigers secured 12 votes from coaches against six for my Razorbacks. That's, like, twice as many. How in tarnation is this possible? HOW???

Being fairly certain that it was not last year's 25-22 Razorback victory down on the plains, I decided to delve deeper. There has to be some good reason, right? The coaches wouldn't just screw it up, would they? I mean, they take this responsibility seriously. Without the proper research and weight of consideration, the respectability of the poll would be diminished. No, there has to be a solid reason for this.

Returning talent has to be the factor. There must be something about the 14 returning Tiger starters on offense and defense that makes them more valuable than the 17 that the Razorbacks return. That's not counting Ryan Mallett, the much-heralded transfer from the University of Michigan, by the way, although he was undefeated in three starts as a Wolverine in 2007.

If not returning talent, new talent must be the determining factor. Something must have come out over the summer to point toward Auburn's incoming freshmen being more of an immediate impact than the Razorback newcomers. Or at least since both incoming classes were ranked in relatively the same position following National Signing Day in Februrary. Rivals had Arkansas' 2009 class ranked 16th and Auburn's 19th, while Scout had the Razorbacks at 20th and the Tigers 16th.

Or maybe it's not the players at all. Auburn does have a new coach, after all. I suppose it's not too much of a stretch to make a case for Gene Chizik as a better head coach than Bobby Petrino. Petrino won only five games in his rookie season as an SEC coach (one of those a victory over 2009 Preseason #9 LSU), while Chizik notched five wins in only two seasons at Iowa State. Wait. What I meant to say was that Bobby Petrino was 41-9 in four seasons at Louisville while Chizik coached Iowa State to a 2-0 start in 2008 with wins against South Dakota State and Kent State before dropping their final ten games. Hmm. Okay. Well, Bobby Petrino may have coached Louisville to an Orange Bowl victory to cap their 2006 campaign, but Chizik led ISU to the much coveted Cy-Hawk Trophy with a 13-10 victory over Iowa in 2007. Yeah.

Forget it. There's no good reason. No deeper insight. The coaches just bungled it. Just as you knew they would. I should have quit when I got to #10.

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