Two weeks ago, I was prepared to construct a stunning article in support of John Pelphrey. I had assorted facts, an arsenal of clever one-liners, and an impressive road win over #22 Vanderbilt strapped to my Pelman utility belt.
Fate would have it that the mask of the Vanderbilt Pelman was revealed, and George Clooney (apologies to those well-versed in the Batman films; I’m too young to remember the other actors) emerged as I watched my Hogs fall to Georgia and Ole Miss in consecutive home losses.
Thus marks the end of an era for everyone’s favorite member of the Pel supporting faction. Now, why is my change of heart important enough to warrant space on a blogging site? I’m not quite sure myself, but hopefully my words ring true for others who have felt my pain as of late. Perhaps I can be representative of Hog fans who have recently been convinced that Pelphrey’s reign will not yield significant results for the University of Arkansas’ basketball program.
If anyone should be able to have hope and support Pel, it should be me. I was only three years old when Nolan and company won the first national championship at Arkansas. While I wasn’t able to enjoy the experience at the time, I also wasn’t plagued with nostalgia when I started watching Hog ball during the Heath era. The Pelphrey hiring was also exciting for me, especially as I observed the difference between his and Dana Altman’s press conferences. The attitude conveyed in that press conference continued to shine in Pelphrey’s first season, and I was sold pretty quickly after beating Indiana in the NCAA tournament.
Fast forward four years later, and I’m severely ticked off. Prior to my complete 180 regarding Pelphrey, I had held a banner of blind faith and let the resonating promise of “next year” become the only threads to which I could cling. I had a bit of a revolution after the Ole Miss game; if I’m struggling to defend this guy, while in contrast I could easily pop off dozens of reasons I wish for a coaching change, why am I still defending him? After all, I didn’t let “Hope” and “Change You Can Believe In” fool me in … a different situation
It wasn’t hard to make the transition. Combine the past two seasons with 30+ point beatdowns from Texas and Florida this year alone piled on top of a bad loss to a leading-scorer-less LSU on the road and consecutive home losses to Georgia and Ole Miss at home. The Ole Miss game was the final straw for me. The rebels, black bears, or whatever they are controlled the Hogs for much of that game, and that falls on John Pelphrey.
I was sorry I had to witness that embarrassment called basketball at home. I was also angry at Pelphrey for shrugging off the loss like it was no big deal – coach-speak or not – which also brings up his simple traveling motion in protest to the controversial call that sealed the Georgia game (not that it was the sole reason for the loss). At the very least, twist your mouth in a contorted shape and tell the ref to “Look my players in the eye!” I’m selfish enough to say I deserve better, as do the rest of the truly wonderful fans of Arkansas.
I must admit that although education was always in the back of my mind, a very influential factor in my choice to attend the University of Arkansas was a sports program enriched by a tradition of excellence. While I do enjoy the experience in The Trough, the thought that I’m struggling to make the most of perhaps one of the lowest points in Arkansas basketball continually tugs at me. Students around me continually discuss the football team, while I have to name off the basketball starters to friends that I invite to the games.
It deeply angers me that when the (very down) SEC is mentioned, Arkansas isn’t even mentioned in the top half of the conference.
It deeply angers me that my team, who ranks nationally in NCAA tournament appearances, final fours, etc., is rebuilding to work for the NIT … not going to the NIT while rebuilding for a NCAAT run.
Arkansas fans have built their ark and waited out the floods. Each time our bird seems to have retrieved an olive branch, it’s reduced to a twig as we’re directed into a new storm. Long needs to find the tree of Mike Anderson, grab it by the dadgum roots, tie it to our boat, and let it pull us to land.