Here's how smug I am: I laughed, bitterly, when Houston Nutt got the Gatorade treatment for beating an unranked team in midseason. For a program that started out the year ranked in the top 5, that's called lowering expectations. Nutt may have a talent for whipping up emotional performances, but he's best at convincing a great team that they are merely good. It makes me feel better that the man is no longer around to squander our talent.
Still, watching that game was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my recent life. It's not on the same level as Florida ‘06 or Tennessee ‘98, but at least those games ran the gamut of emotions. This one flatlined minutes into the first quarter.
The worst part was I had to go it alone, because there are surprisingly few Razorbacks up here in Canada. I often feel like I'm walking among an alien species: stranger in a strange land, a land without college football. Solitary fandom renders you a kind of maniac. Some Saturdays I sit at the end of a bar — seething, bottled up — and people just go about their business as if the world isn't teetering on its axis. Other times, like this week, I watch alone in my house while my wife hides downstairs. I hop around and pace, throw my hat against the wall and tug at my hair. My dog gives me a concerned look.
Often I retreat to the message boards for communal suffering. You're sure to find a comforting mixture of humor and rage around those parts. I'm a confirmed lurker, unwilling to enter the fray and content to pour my heart into these weekly missives. But this weekend tested my resolve. The meltdown was more embarrassing than the loss.
Few people expected the Hogs to come out sparkling from their mid-season gauntlet. And before the Rebels blew their BCS season with typical Nutt meltdowns, before we took the number one team in the country down to the wire, few would have been terribly surprised at this loss.
That's the price of expectations, and it's one that our former coach rarely asked us to pay. Petrino and his staff have given this fanbase a reason to believe. We should pay them back with a little backbone. Our players deserve better than this whining, panicky nonsense. Of course they have to do better. Of course they need to learn how to maintain focus. Of course a loss this lopsided is unacceptable. But grow up yourself if that's what you're going to ask the players to do.
While our own message boards didn't help, the gloating over at NAFOOM, Ole Miss' most popular site, actually made me feel a lot better. I haven't seen a group of people more content with their position in the world since a team with one of the best backfields in the history of college football lost to Alabama in the second game of the 2007 season. Let them have it.
The last 15 years of Razorbacks athletics have made us into an emotional mess. We soar or sink like overeager manic-depressives. I still think Bobby Petrino's the treatment, and winning is the cure. Get back on the couch and let him do his job.
Here's where I'm supposed to preview the Eastern Michigan game. The Eagles have not won a single contest this season. Last week, they lost to Ball State. Ball State had not won a game this season. Their head coach had not won a game in 25 years. Eastern Michigan is currently the most defeated team in the Mid-American Conference. They are the winners at losing.
The Razorbacks haven't had a bye in six weeks. Expect our starters to get some rest in the second half. Lord knows they need it. The season is far from over, despite what some message boarders might have you think.