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I emerged from Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium as annoyed as many of the other Arkansas fans. Now I had to fight the game day traffic plan, which rarely let's me go the direction I need to go, and the guy parked next to me was so close none of my passengers could open their doors.

It might be what I had just witnessed inside the stadium had soured my mood about just about everything else. I went home and quickly washed off the day's lingering foulness. Time to move on.

And that's what I do most of the time, probably because I don't have the photographic memory of sporting events some of my friends and family have. They can recall which uniforms an opposing team debuted in a contest against the Hogs eight years ago. You know, the one in which the quarterback injured is third toe as he was tackled for a loss on third and eight at the 23 yard line.

I'm lucky if I remember showing up for the game at all. I love watching them and cheering for the team, but when it's done, it's done. Maybe a few minutes of chatter about it at the office on Monday morning, but Bret Bielema gets paid a lot more than I do to worry about the football team. I'll let him do it. This falls under the category of unnecessary stressors my doctor warned me about.

I'm not the market for Razorback-themed radio call-in shows. In the days after a football game, what happens on the field appears important only because it provides the fuel for a new week of exclamations, criticisms and prognostications from those who consider themselves fans above and beyond the average Hog-hat wearing tailgater.

People who were never good at math in school can cite the most remote statistic and figure out what might have happened had the trajectory run route been angled 5 degrees one way or the other. Those who thought memorizing the dates important to American independence was a slog in school can describe in detail which yard line Arkansas fumbled on in the first play against LSU in 2007, along with the player's hometown and sprint speed, in a game the Hogs went on to win in three overtimes. Guys who can't remember their wedding anniversary can give you full statistical reviews of 16- and 17-year-old high school players who might one day become a Razorback. Yes, those same kids become worthless players of questionable moral fiber as soon as they announce they'll go someplace else.

Whether it's game play, who's coaching and how well the quarterback (or maybe the placekicker) can perform under pressure, we're not dealing with the possible implications of geopolitical tensions. For some fans (short for fanatics), the analysis and debate that happens between games is more a part of being a fan than cheering on the team every Saturday. In fact, it's some of those hard-core fans who are the first to turn on their team, at least based on what I've seen over the years at Razorback Stadium and War Memorial Stadium.

Why do people do it? Because, in the end, it's sports. One can be as vociferous as he wants but at the end of the day, nobody is launching nuclear bombs against another country. Nobody's getting deported. The only wall anyone has to worry about is the front line. When it all shakes out, there's always next season. People with different viewpoints (i.e., who support other teams) aren't the enemy. Strong opinions about sports teams and games will never be the cause of a war. It's all just fun and games.

Until it's not. All you have to do to recognize that is listen to radio call-in talk shows focused on the Razorbacks. There are plenty of them, filled with calls from self-appointed experts who know far, far more than the head coach earning millions of dollars, or all the assistants making six-figure salaries. These callers could coach the team so much better if only they hadn't pursued a career in plumbing, furniture sales or construction.

And so we've heard assertions after last week's TCU game that the Razorbacks are not on the right track and that someone needs to be fired. Naturally, that someone typically turns out to be the coach. The turf for some is always greener on the other side.

I'll be at the next home game, cheering for the Hogs' success. I'll be frustrated if they don't perform well -- for a while. And yes, at some point in everyone's life, there has to be a decision about whether the whole game-day experience is the best use of his disposable entertainment dollar.

One thing I can't stand is a program that starts "rebuilding" every few years because of impatience and a level of dissatisfaction that appears to constantly be on the verge of surfacing. I'd hate to have those people in charge of my retirement fund, such as it is.

Commentary on 09/18/2017

Print Headline: Feral fandom

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