Columns » John Brummett

Let's you and him fight

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I was wrong. Arkansas is not a tailgate party masquerading as a state. We’re a Jerry Springer episode masquerading as a state.

There goes the football coach trying to pull out some of the sports editor’s several remaining hairs. Quick, somebody get hold of them both.

Lacking actual celebrities, since Billy Bob Thornton and Mary Steenburgen aren’t here much, these and the TV weathermen are our best excuses.

Houston Nutt and Wally Hall, who share a midtown Little Rock working class heritage, and who require only first names henceforth, used to be such pals.

When Bear Bryant came to Houston’s house more than three decades ago to exercise the misjudgment of trying to recruit this slow-footed high school quarterback who would go on to a nondescript performance at Oklahoma State after failing at, and bailing out on, the University of Arkansas, to which he would later profess his loving devotion as head football coach even though, hours before, he’d been willing to move to Nebraska unless he got a big raise — well, this sentence has gotten as out of control as the UA athletic department.

Here’s where I was trying to get: Once Houston was a college quarterbacking prospect from Little Rock Central. Houston invited Wally, old family friend and still a cub columnist, to stop by the Nutt house and meet the great man himself when Bryant, an old pal of Houston’s dad, came recruiting.

Houston opted for Arkansas, and, as the role model for Mitch Mustain, quit. He transferred to Oklahoma State, where he never amounted to much.

Anyway, sports editor Wally, who seemed a little beaten down when he confirmed that Bear story for me Monday, has been in the process lately of becoming less enamored of Houston the Razorback head coach.

And vice versa.

It turned out that Houston had an even worse recruiting year than normal. Arkansas’s top players are no longer bothering to transfer; they’re eschewing the soap opera and going elsewhere straight out of high school.

True to form, Houston made excuses. He whined that it hurt his chances when he would go into a recruit’s home and find that the parents possessed a copy of some newspaper article about how everything was all messed up in Hogland.

Wally took offense that Houston seemed to blame the messenger, and penned an unusually clear column saying it wasn’t the media that committed about two dozen alleged transgressions that he alleged of Houston.

This mesmerized people from Dermott to Bentonville. In Arkansas, typewriter jocks and microphone jocks are required by state statute to be coaches’ sycophants.

So, multi-media Wally appears regularly on a radio show in Little Rock with that poor man’s Howard Stern who used to talk dirty on the air and invite girls to come by and show their breasts.

Houston, possessed of the thinnest skin in Arkansas when Mike Huckabee is out of state, called this radio show Friday. Sounding seriously pee-owed, he took apart a few of Wally’s allegations.

Houston’s demeanor was stronger than his substance. But Wally shouldn’t have accused him of playing a guy with a separated shoulder if he played a guy with a sprained shoulder who had a doctor’s clearance.

The former dirty-talker fell over himself stammer-blabbing about how wonderful it was for “Houston Dale” to call.

Wally just sat there mousy and shaky-voiced, except after Houston hung up. At that point, Wally pronounced all brave-like that he stood by what he wrote.

I have a dog like that. Scooter will bark at you as long as you’re walking away. But if you turn toward him, that tail tucks way up under his ears and he slinks under the porch.

A guy was saying that if Wally’s right, then Houston ought to be fired, and that if Houston’s right, then Wally ought to be fired. And I’m thinking: What if they’re both wrong?

We can’t fire both. Who’d keep us entertained?

Well, there’d still be the former dirty-talker. And maybe we could get the weathermen to start fighting each other.

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