Webster’s has a couple of primary definitions of fans where it relates to sports:
- An enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator
- An ardent admirer or enthusiast (as of a celebrity or a pursuit)
There’s no mention about sanity or political correctness in there. You won’t get any lectures on political correctness from this corner. Few would accuse me of being very familiar with that term.
But the backlash from some fans attaching blame to any of the players for not catching a foul ball in the second game of the College World Series has gotten to the level of ridiculous.
There are, quite honestly, arguments to be made on more than one front on that particular play. It was a play that wasn’t made. Nobody dropped the ball. Let’s be a little clearer and just flat-out say you’re blaming players for not making a spectacular play.
There was nothing routine about the foul down the right-field line that Eric Cole, Jared Gates and Carson Shaddy couldn’t haul in.
It’s easy to watch on television or in person and say any of the three could have gotten the ball, but, as Dave Van Horn said later, it was in no-man’s land. That wasn’t the only missed foul ball in the series. It’s not like there were three Hogs standing between first and third and the ball fell in between all of them.
On those things, any of the three players chasing the ball could have caught it. It would have been a highlight-reel catch. None of them caught it, though.
And the guess here there’s not a Razorback fan in existence that feels worse about it than one of those players.
Other stories have highlighted failed moments in the sports history of the Razorbacks. For some, it IS the tradition — getting close but never getting over the hump.
The only unquestioned national championship in one of the revenue-producing sports the Hogs have ever won was the basketball title in 1994. We’re not going to argue the football title some writers took back from Alabama and gave to Arkansas after the 1964 season.
For whatever reason, the golden ring often seems to be close enough to touch for Razorback fans, but they never are able to grab it and hold it.
That has led to an interesting scenario in Arkansas athletics. While many fans simply want affirmation about the Hogs over objective information, it’s also a matter of who gets the credit … or blame.
Football has always had a particular pecking order for the blame game:
- Head coach
- Athletics director
Don’t ask me why. I didn’t invent it, but I remember in 1967 when Frank Broyles was ready to be run out of the state after a 4-5-1 season and some of the old men in the pool hall in Warren thought John Barnhill, who was winding down his longtime role as athletics director, should be driving the car.
But that’s football. In other sports, there aren’t as many armchair experts, but they tend to come out of the woodwork when the Hogs have a shot at a championship.
Folks wanting to shove Van Horn aside aren’t even worth listening to, in my opinion. It would be like listening to me talk about brain surgery … aside from suspecting the general area of the direction to aim for, I’m clueless.
And in baseball, remember, there are only 11 scholarships that are broken into halves, fourths and all sorts of combinations. Yes, 11 total scholarships, so baseball coaches have to be accountants as much as anything. We heard in the past week that may be under review by the NCAA, but it’s been in place until now.
What Van Horn has done in taking over what Norm DeBriyn built is nothing short of first rate. All that’s missing is a title and winning the baseball title is as tough as any other big time college sport.
The Hogs were close this time. They couldn’t quite make THE play to close the deal on a championship they probably didn’t earn.
A lack of getting bat on ball was the reason this team didn’t win a championship. Baseball tends to even things out and very few championships are stolen by a team that doesn’t deserve it.
Arkansas had a shot to win a national championship it probably didn’t earn because no one can say they earned the runs they got in the first two games. It was more a case of Oregon State blunders than anything the Hogs did.
Plus, let’s not forget, this team had a chance to bring home the title in the third game and couldn’t get enough hits (or Oregon State errors) to push across a single run.
In the end, the better team actually won the title. For Razorback fans, the hurt will linger awhile.
But it’s not one single player’s fault.