What Dreams May Come: In Memory of Paul Eells
It's difficult to fathom a season of Razorback football without Paul Eells.
Eells, the voice of the Razorbacks for 28 years, died last week in a tragic car accident on Interstate 40 in Russellville.
We lamented earlier this week that the loss of Darren McFadden would be devastating to the Razorback football team. We still believe in the principles of that column, but it seems trivial compared to what Arkansans have been feeling this week. The loss of Paul Eells, simply stated, is far more devastating.
We didn't know Paul Eells personally. We met him at golf tournaments, charity fund-raisers, and at other events. He would't have remembered our names, but Paul Eells wasn't the type of guy who let that stand in the way of being cordial, if not downright friendly.
There was always a "hello" or "nice to meet you." Paul didn't distinguish between the somebodies and the nobodies, To him, everyone was the same and everyone who wanted his attention received it. It was just that way.
It is rare that someone in media can develop a lasting career as a journalist, particularly covering the most popular (and controversial) sport in Arkansas, and still remain this well-liked.
The secret, though, is not much of a secret at all. In every column or report we've read, those asked to reflect on Paul Eells' life all say the same thing: "He was one of the nicest guys I've ever met." It seems that in the journalistic world of spritied competition, tabloids, Internet blogs and the quest for instant information, irrespective of its accuracy, Eells was a gentle giant whose weapon was kindness.
In the recency of death, public comment is focused on the good in a passed individual, and the bad is left largely unsaid. Rightfully so, as a rule. Here, the difference is that everyone who talked about Paul Eells the person before his death said the same thing all are saying now. As a result, the tributes have mirrored the man, not the slightest bit contrived or disingenuous. Which means that we who remember Paul today with fondness and love will remember him the same way tomorrow and in the years to come. There is no greater tribute for any human being.
We're certain there are times that Paul Eells disagreed with Razorback personnel, coaches and decisions made on and off the field. He recognized that he had a professional obligation as a reporter and a commentator to evaluate those issues. But he also recognized that he had a greater obligation to the people of Arkansas. He knew that they looked to him every Saturday for some understanding that even if all was not well in Hog land, it soon would be. And he knew that he could tell a story while remaining fair, compassionate and, above all else, professional.
We will miss hearing Paul on the radio calling Razorback football games from high above the field. And we will miss his spirited "Touchdown Arkansas; oh my" the first time a Razorback football player finds the end zone.
Ecclesiastes tells us that for everything there is a reason. We hope so. But it doesn't make Paul Eell's death any more tolerable. And so, with the grace and spirit that found him on this earth, may he now walk the halls of Hog Heaven and realize, in the words of Shakespeare, "for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come."
J.R. and Henry, two Little Rock sports fanatics, blog their sports column twice a week at Little Rocking.