Archive for November, 2009

College football — Week 11

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Finally, the University of Arkansas didn’t let us down in an SEC game. We had hopped aboard the bandwagon and picked the Hogs against both Georgia and Ole Miss. That was a mistake.

For some reason, we picked Arkansas again against South Carolina. This time, the Razorbacks came through. The Ol’ Ball Coach just ain’t what he used to be.

Arkansas State and UCA do, however, continue to let us down. We picked both to win last week. Both lost at home.

As has been their pattern all year, the Red Wolves dug a big hole early and tried to come back late. But the hole was too deep against Louisiana-Lafayette. ASU has been a real disappointment to this point in the season. Star quarterback Corey Leonard was even pulled from the game after drives that ended in an interception and a fumble.

UCA, at 5-4, has lost games by totals of five, four, three and three points. Last week’s heartbreaker came at home to Texas State with a regional television audience looking on.

At least we picked the Battle of the Ravine correctly last week. That was, after all, the most important of the seven football games played within the state of Arkansas last Saturday. We were 4-3 for the week, making us 49-26 for the year.

Let’s get to this week’s picks:

Arkansas 45, Troy 24 — Troy is good; just not SEC good. The Razorback offense is rolling now and will do so again as the Hogs play their third consecutive game in Fayetteville. The Trojans started the season with losses to Bowling Green and Florida (56-6). That has been followed by seven consecutive victories. But those victories have come over Alabama-Birmingham, Arkansas State (by three points), Middle Tennessee, Florida International, North Texas, Louisiana-Monroe and Western Kentucky. The Hogs go to 6-4 and set the stage for an important game the following week against Mississippi State at War Memorial Stadium.

Arkansas State 31, Florida Atlantic 28 — We’re not sure why we’re sticking with the 2-6 Red Wolves at this point other than the fact that they have enough talent to win some more Sun Belt Conference games. Florida Atlantic is also 2-6. The Owls started the season with losses to Nebraska, South Carolina, Louisiana-Monroe and Wyoming. The Owls then won two straight over North Texas and Louisiana-Lafayette. Since then, they have lost to Middle Tennessee and Alabama-Birmingham. Maybe the beauty of Fort Lauderdale will revive the Red Wolves this week.

UCA 27, Sam Houston State 20 — We’re also going to stick with the Bears as they make the trip to Huntsville, Texas, home of the country’s busiest death chamber. Sam Houston is 4-5. The victories have come over North Dakota State, St. Joseph’s, Nicholls State and Northwestern State of Louisiana. The losses have come to Western Illinois, Tulsa, Southeastern Louisiana, Stephen F. Austin and McNeese State.

Arkansas Tech 49, North Carolina-Pembroke 40 — This should be an entertaining game in the first round of the NCAA Divsion II playoffs. Kickoff is set for noon in Russellville. That leaves you plenty of time to see the game in Russellville and then make it to Fayetteville for the 6:30 p.m. kickoff there. An interesting sidebar to this game is the fact that UCA’s new president, Van Buren native Allen Meadors, was the chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke for a decade before being hired in June to replace Lu Hardin. UCA and Tech, of course, were heated rivals when both were members of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference. Wonder if Meadors will be in the visitors’ stands Saturday? UNC-Pembroke is 9-1, its only loss having come to perennial Division II power Carson-Newman out of Tennessee. Arkansas Tech is 8-2 and getting better every week under the leadership of quarterback Nick Graziano, the senior transfer from Nevada. UNC-Pembroke simply has not seen the type of competition that Tech has faced all season in the Gulf South Conference.

Post to Twitter

Knock ’em out, Henry

Friday, November 6th, 2009

God bless Henry Allen of the Washington Post.

We don’t normally editorially endorse physical violence at Southern Fried, but the story of Henry Allen’s fight in the Post newsroom a week ago is the best story we’ve read all week.

Here’s what happened on that final Friday in October: Veteran features editor Henry Allen punched one of his writers, Manuel Roig-Franzia, during an argument in the office of the newspaper’s executive editor.

Allen, who is 68 and served as a Marine in Vietnam, was upset that another Style editor had assigned a story to writer Monica Hesse and Roig-Franzia without his knowledge.

That editor had asked the two writers to play off the disclosure last week that many members of Congress are being investigated for ethics violations. The two writers compiled a list of similar inadvertent disclosures throughout history and came up with what’s known as a “charticle.”

When Allen got the story, he began to rant loudly about the mistakes he found in the copy.

One of the incidents referenced in the “charticle” was an account of how a Confederate solider lost the military plans of Robert E. Lee; plans that found their way into Union hands. The original story said that the incident had occurred in Virginia. Wrong. It occurred at Antietam, which is in Maryland.

Allen screamed: “This is total crap. It’s the second worst story I have seen in Style in 43 years.”

The worst apparently was a mistake-filled profile of Paul Robeson that never made it into the newspaper.

Roig-Franzia cursed Allen. Editor Allen punched him.

The reason I say “God bless Henry Allen” is because I have a soft spot for an old editor who still cares enough about the written word to get into a fight. Too many of today’s editors seem to have no intensity, no fire. The joy of writing and editing is missing from their work. They might as well be in a cubicle at Entergy turning out corporate news releases.

Not to get too nostalgic, but I long for the days when people became angry about reporters’ mistakes. Like many people, I’ve mellowed with age. In my younger days as an editor, I was known to throw a dictionary or two.

When I was the assistant sports editor at the Arkansas Democrat in the 1980s, I once had our “recreation writer” (a cute young thing) tell me she had “writer’s block.”

I didn’t realize I was going to make her cry when I began my rant: “That’s impossible. You can’t have writer’s block because you’re not a writer. Hemingway was a writer. Faulkner was a writer. You’re not a writer. You’re a newspaper reporter. So finish your dang story.”

Later that year, John Robert Starr transferred me to Washington to cover Congress. During the four years I lived there, the Style section of the Post became my favorite newspaper section in America. I would stay up late into the night in the basement where I lived on Capitol Hill’s Tennesse Avenue Northeast, reading the great long-form journalism in the Style section. Those stories ran for thousands of words and were crafted like fine magazine pieces. What a joy it was on a cold night to curl up with the Style section and some coffee or hot tea.

In this sad period for the American newspaper, I echo the words of the Post’s Gene Weingarten, who said: “The first thing I want to say is hooray. Hooray that there is still enough passion left somewhere in a newsroom in America for violence to break out between colorful characters in disagreement over the quality of a story.”

David Von Drehle, one of the finest writers ever to work at the newspaper, wrote this on a Washington City Paper blog earlier this week: “Of all the people to be drummed out of the Post newsroom, Henry Allen was the most dazzling and original talent I’ve seen in 30-plus years in the journalism business. His was one of the truly great Post careers, and he’s my ideal of Style at its best. When I try to unpack the reason I once dreamed of a place at the Post, it has to do with the sense of experimentation, of risk-taking, of form-busting that defined the Post in the glory days. People tried to capture the spark by saying that the Post was the ultimate writers’ newspaper. But what we were really getting at — even if we didn’t realize it — was that the Post was Henry Allen’s newspaper. He took newspaper journalism to places no one realized it could go, and thereby filled a lot of us with big ideas about what the business could be. . . . In these parlous times, how do you put the last exclamation point on a fearless career spent smashing limits and efforting the impossible? No damn sheet cake for Henry Southworth Allen, nossir. He’s left us with one more story that we’ll never forget.”

God bless Henry Allen. God bless newspapers. God bless the written word and those who care deeply about it.

Post to Twitter

College football — Week 10

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

What a great week this is for college football games across the state of Arkansas.

Arkansas and South Carolina will play in Fayetteville in a key SEC contest that will go a long way toward determining what quality of bowl games these teams attend.

Arkansas State hosts Louisiana-Lafayette in Jonesboro on Saturday afternoon in a Sun Belt Conference game.

A UAPB team that is much improved over last year’s squad plays Grambling in the Delta Classic at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

UCA hosts my wife’s alma mater, Texas State, in Conway on Saturday night in a Southland Conference game.

Ouachita hosts Henderson on Saturday afternoon in the Battle of the Ravine, one of the great rivalry games in all of college football. Where else can the visiting team walk to a road game? State troopers will stop traffic on U.S. Highway 67 in Arkadelphia, and Henderson’s players and coaches will walk across to Ouachita’s A.U. Williams Field. After the game, the Reddies will trudge back across the highway to their own dressing room. 

Arkansas Tech goes to Searcy to play Harding on Saturday afternoon with a lot on the line. If the Wonder Boys win, they’re likely to be in the NCAA Division II playoffs.

In El Dorado, meanwhile, the first Boomtown Classic in that city’s great old Memorial Stadium will pit the Muleriders of Southern Arkansas against the Boll Weevils of UAM.

That’s seven decent college football games in seven Arkansas cities on the same day — Fayetteville, Jonesboro, Little Rock, Conway, Arkadelphia, Searcy and El Dorado. You really should make it out to a college football game this weekend.

We were 7-2 with our picks last week, making us 45-23 for the season. Let’s get to this week’s selections:

Arkansas 31, South Carolina 29 — I hesitate to get back on the Razorback bandwagon after being burned when I picked the Hogs against both Georgia and Ole Miss. As we have seen, neither Georgia nor Ole Miss is having a vintage year. Oh well. We’ll put on our cardinal-colored glasses and join all the rest of you fanatics in picking the Razorbacks in a game that easily could go the other way. Both teams have lost to Alabama. Both teams have lost to Georgia. South Carolina also was whipped on Saturday night in Knoxville. The wins for the 6-3 Gamecocks have come against North Carolina State, Florida Atlantic, Ole Miss, South Carolina State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Those six schools aren’t setting the world on fire this season. The Gamecocks’ win over Ole Miss looked like a signature victory at the time. In retrospect, it wasn’t.

Arkansas State 24, Louisiana-Lafayette 21 — With a great quarterback and veteran running back, I keep thinking the 2-5 Red Wolves will put it together. They player larger schools such as Iowa and Louisville well on the road but can’t get over the hump. Louisiana-Lafayette is 4-4. The wins were over Southern University, Kansas State (a shocker at the time), North Texas and Western Kentucky. The losses have been to LSU, Nebraska, Florida Atlantic and Florida International. Losses the past two weeks to the Sun Belt’s two south Florida schools tell me that this is not the same Louisiana-Lafayette team that beat Kansas State back on Sept. 12. The conference wins over North Texas and Western Kentucky were against bad teams. North Texas is 2-6. Western Kentucky is 0-8, including a loss to UCA.

Grambling 46, UAPB 35 — After their loss to Southern University in Pine Bluff last Saturday, the Golden Lions find themselves at 2-2 in the SWAC and 4-3 overall. Grambling is 4-1 in the SWAC and 5-3 overall. Grambling started the season with a loss to South Carolina State and followed that up with wins over Northwestern State of Louisiana and Jackson State. That was followed by losses to Oklahoma State and Prairie View A&M. The Tigers have since reeled off three consecutive victories — 41-20 over Alabama A&M, 23-12 over Alabama State and 50-7 over Mississippi Valley State. It’s nice to see this game in War Memorial Stadium for a third straight season. The great tradition of the SWAC needs to be displayed annually in Little Rock.

UCA 37, Texas State 32 — The Bears are 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the Southland Conference with losses of five, four and three points. Texas State is 3-1 in the conference and also 5-3 overall. McNeese State, Stephen F. Austin, Southeastern Louisiana and Texas State all find themselves tied atop the Southland standings. The Bobcats have posted wins over Angelo State, Texas Southern, Nicholls State, Northwestern State and Stephen F. Austin. The losses were to TCU, Southern Utah and Southeastern Louisiana. It should be an exciting game in Conway. We’ll go with the home team in a game that could easily go either way.

Ouachita 27, Henderson 23 — There is nothing quite like a Battle of the Ravine. It’s the most unique college rivalry in the country. We really think ESPN should have its “Game Day” crew there to watch the visitors cross the highway. If you have never been to one of these games, you owe it to yourself to be in Arkadelphia on Saturday for the 1:30 p.m. kickoff. This is hard to pick because it’s truly one of those games where you can throw the records out.

Arkansas Tech 45, Harding 30 — The Wonder Boys and their stellar quarterback, Nick Graziano, smell the playoffs. This is a must win for them, and they should get the job done in Searcy.

UAM 28, Southern Arkansas 24 — On Thanksgiving Day 1933, the schools that are now known as UAM and SAU battled in El Dorado in a game dubbed the Battle of the Goat. A goat named Nanny was to be awarded to the winner, but the game ended in a 0-0 tie. You no longer have to worry about ties in college football. The winner of this year’s Boomtown Classic will receive a trophy. Alumni events have been scheduled by both schools, and a concert will be held afterward at the El Dorado Municipal Auditorium. We love the idea of a college football game being played in El Dorado. SAU upset a very good UAM team a year ago in Steve Quinn’s final game as the Mulerider head coach. The Boll Weevils have not lived up to expectations this year, but we expect them to revenge last year’s loss to end the season with a 5-6 record.

Post to Twitter