Fall is in the air and I love it! I love many things about fall. Some of my loves are lifelong – such as college football and others have been added along the way like the Down syndrome awareness walks that take place in the month of October. To help you understand the importance of football (college football is my favorite but I love the NFL too) you would be interested to know that I got married in August before college footballs season started. No true Southern gal gets married on a Saturday in the fall when college football is in full swing. My love for football is a bit ironic because Rose Bud, where I grew up, had no high school football until a few years ago. I didn’t spend Friday night at high school games. So how you may wonder did you become such a fan? My daddy is the answer.For as long as I can remember, my daddy and I have been watching football together. Sunday afternoons were always spent watching NFL football. We did not have cable packages and such. We had Channels 4 (NBC), 7 (ABC) and 11 (CBS) and channel 2 was the education station. They did not carry football. So we watched what was on NBC and CBS because ABC carried the college games on Saturday. When I was in the 2nd grade I could name all of the NFL teams and their quarterbacks. My daddy taught me those and the rules. Knowing NFL team and quarterbacks is certainly a life skill that every girl needs. For some reason daddy was a Miami Dolphins fan so I became a Dolphin fan. In 1972 they not only won the Super Bowl but also became the first team to go undefeated. I still wait anxiously in the fall for every team to lose a game so my Dolphins can retain their historical spot.
My true love is college football though. We would listen to Bud Campbell on the radio and I would read the newspaper articles with daddy. My earliest vivid memory of watching the Hogs was in December 6, 1969 Touted the “Game of the Century”, the Reverend Billy Graham gave the invocation and President Nixon attended. It was a Southwestern Conference showdown between number 1 Texas and number 2 Arkansas in Fayetteville. A national broadcast which didn’t happen often for our Hogs back then. One church marquee said, “Football is only a game. God is eternal. Nevertheless Beat Texas!” My most vivid memory was late in the 4th quarter daddy yelling at the TV “he clipped, he clipped.” Apparently in his opinion and the opinion of many people, there was a clip that wasn’t called. Texas scored and beat us. My mother cried. I cried. Daddy pounded the floor.
Years later, I have lots of other good memories of my Hogs and a lot of not so good ones. I was pregnant with Rachel when we travelled to Knoxville to watch our unexpectedly undefeated Hogs play an undefeated and number 1 rated Tennessee. We dominated the game and it looked like we were going to win. We had the ball with 1:47 seconds and I leaned over to Jonathan and said, “All he has to do is hold on to th e ball.” Suddenly Jonathan said, “He didn’t just do that.” Our quarterback had tripped over his own player’s foot and fumbled. Tennessee recovered. They went on to score and win. It is now remembered as “stumble and fumble”. We were living in Memphis and had travelled to the game with friends from Nashville. On that cold overcast night we drove to a Cracker Barrel and all just sat stunned. First thing Sunday morning I called daddy. He knew who was calling and he said, “Oh Jawanda Kay, that’s the kind of thing a kid never gets over.” He was talking about our quarterback of course. I half-jokingly tell our UT friends you are welcome for the gift of the national championship we gave you on that November day.
When Rachel came along, I couldn’t wait to get her to her first football game. One of her first games where she knew what was going on was the Auburn vs. Arkansas game in Fayetteville. It was a big day for the four of us. Rachel was all dolled up and we learned that day that she is going to be a football girl. She cheered and made friends. When daddy started shaking his fist at the field and yelling at our coach, she looked over and said, “Popie, you need to calm down.” I gave him the evil eye and told him he would have to be a little tamer now that we had a little Razorback travelling with us. To this day, she and her Popie tell that story and laugh about it.
I know a lot of people think this obsession with football is silly. In some ways, it is. We laugh at ourselves sometimes. Daddy loves going to games with us and we love going with him. Jonathan, daddy, my sister and I attend the Little Rock games together. That is one of the highlights of the year for me: to get to spend time with my sister. Since we live six and half-hours apart we don’t see each other as much as we would like. Through the avenue called football, we have created so many treasured memories. Not just the of the games but the travel to the games. The meals and conversation. It is time we cherish, look forward to and plan for year round.