Hogs, Horns and a brief history of fandom

Matt Jones scores a touchdown against Texas in 2003.

Matt Jones scores a touchdown against Texas in 2003.

If my view of history beings at my birth, on Feb. 7, 1991, then the history of college football according to Daniel McFadin begins on Jan. 1, 2000.

It’s a good thing Y2K was a bunch of hot air, otherwise the memories of my first time watching college football wouldn’t be of the Cotton Bowl meeting between the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Texas Longhorns.

Growing up in Lewisville, Texas, a city about 30 minutes north of Dallas and 20 minutes south of Denton, all I knew was the Dallas Cowboys. Sundays were the only day of the weekend that mattered.

As far as 9-year-old me was concerned, the Longhorns (9-3) didn’t become a concept until they faced the Houston Nutt-led Razorbacks (7-4) on that Saturday that literally kicked off the new Millennium.

The Razorbacks I were familiar with. Both my parents had been raised in Arkansas before getting married and moving to North Texas and leaving most of their families behind in the Natural State in the late 80s.

After I was born, this meant many holiday and spring break trips backs to Arkansas to visit family. The most exposure to the Hogs came with my mom’s father, Dan Jones, who will forever be referred to as Papa.

Papa is the grandfather that epitomized grandfathers. Grey haired, deep voiced and with a twinkle in his eye that was only interrupted when he’d give you a friendly wink.

Papa had season tickets to Arkansas football games, which I never had the chance to attend with him. My cousin Blain did, even taking in Arkansas’ upset of Tennessee in 1999 with Papa.

I will forever envy him for this.

Because of these visits I vaguely knew the importance of the Hogs to the state.

This awareness grew a bit on the New Year’s Day 15 years ago.

My only real memory of the day is sitting in our living room at home with my parents as we watched the game. I might have been fooling around with a Pez dispenser I received for Christmas.

My mom and dad were rooting for the Razorbacks, of course. But 9-year-old Daniel didn’t understand this. I was from Texas. Therefore, I had to support the Longhorns. Right?

So I did.

I wasn’t the only one that was being introduced to the Arkansas-Texas rivalry, that’s for sure. This was the two school’s first meeting since since 1991, the year when I was both born and the old Southwestern Conference died.

So, Arkansas went on to win and Houston Nutt, a second-year head coach in Fayetteville, gave the Horns-down symbol as he left the field.

I have no clue what my reaction was to the Hogs winning. I probably just went back to my Pez.

Three months later, my strongest emotional connection to the Razorbacks was gone. Papa died of a heart attack on April 15th. I remember the date because it was the same as the date of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Yes, I had gone through a Titanic phase in 1997. (More because of Robert D. Ballard than anything James Cameron did.)

I remember my mom getting the phone call. I remember standing on our front porch watching my dad comfort her in the driveway after he got home.

My mom wanted to be closer to her family. So a few months later my dad had a new job and we moved to Northwest Arkansas.

Now this is where my team allegiances get screwy.

For a year I was vehemently anti-Razorbacks.  For a year I was the “new kid” at school. For a year I was made fun of for being from Texas by more than a few people.

Even my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Woods, poked fun at me. One day in class, he introduced us to a new teaching inter. I don’t remember her name, but I vividly recall him asking her where she was from.

Whatever she replied with, Mr. Woods responded, jokingly, “Oh good, I was afraid you were going to say Texas.”

Cut to me at my desk, burying my head in my arms as I began bawling.

There were many reasons for me to hate fourth and fifth grade. That was one of them.

I didn’t like the Razorbacks because people made fun of me for being from Texas. Simple at that.

This continued for a year. Then something happened to start changing the tide.

Matt Jones happened.

Don’t remember Jones? That doesn’t surprise me if you don’t, the last time anyone saw him, he was toiling as mediocre wide receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But before that, for four years, he was a quarterback at Arkansas. A really good quarterback.

Maybe it was because he was a tall, skinny white kid like myself who I could relate to. Or maybe it was because he was so much fun watch. Either way Matt Jones began the thawing process.

The thaw was complete on Nov. 29, 2002 in a game against LSU in Little Rock.

The Razorbacks 21-20 win over the No. 18 Tigers is better known as the Miracle at Markham.

I watched it all via a bad reception on TV. But I can confirm that was the day the Razorbacks took up real estate in my sports fandom heart.

Then 2003 happened.

That marked the first year the Hog and Longhorns would meet in the regular season since the Cotton Bowl three-years prior.

And I wanted to Texas to win.

I didn’t get to watch as the Razorbacks defeated Texas in Austin, 38-28. My dad and I were at a swap meet during the game. But I told myself I wanted Texas to win.

The next year, Matt Jones’ last, Texas visited Fayetteville and I told myself I just wanted a good game. That ended with Arkansas losing, 22-20.

By that time I was entrenched in Hog country. Going to games, wearing jerseys and calling the Hogs. The whole deal.

By 2008, I was embarrassed when Texas doled out a 52-10 beating to the Hogs in Austin.

In 2010, I witnessed in person my favorite Arkansas game, in Memphis of all places.

I went to college and became a Red Wolf. But the Razorbacks still enjoyed a chunk of  fandom real-estate.

Now it’s 2014. Arkansas is once again facing the Longhorns in the Texas Bowl, in Houston of all places.

I sit here on my couch in Charlotte, wearing an Arkansas football shirt and an old Hog ball cap from the 80’s that belonged to Papa. The game kicks off in an hour and I’ll be watching.

With the help of modern technology I’ll be Skyping with my friend Corey in Indianapolis who is the biggest Longhorn fan I’ve ever encountered.

It’s going to be fun.

My college football history has never failed to be interesting.

About Daniel McFadin

NASCAR writer for NBCSports.com. Former Sporting News intern. Graduated from IUPUI in Indianapolis with a master in sports journalism in 2014 and from Arkansas State University in 2013 with a degree in Journalism. Originally from Lewisville, Texas, now in Fort Worth. Ask me if I like Star Wars. I dare you.
This entry was posted in Arkansas Razorbacks, college-football, Dallas Cowboys, Fandom, Football, History, Indianapolis, Memories, SEC Football, Sports and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s