Hogs’ Habits Are Hard to Break


By J. Frank Parnell

My friend Jim Harris and I were enjoying one of our favorite pastimes the other day – poking fun at bad pop music – when Jim broke into “Hard Habit to Break,” a schmaltzy effort Chicago turned into a hit. We chuckled but thought it was odd that someone would refer to a significant other as a “habit.”

This was about the time when the Hogs’ announcement came that the University of Arkansas was working on a deal to play football against the University of Missouri every other year at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium. The deal would reduce the number of UA football games at the stadium from one per year to one every other year.

The song stuck in my head, and I even looked up the lyrics:

“I guess I thought you’d be here forever,

Another illusion I chose to create.

You don’t know what you got until it’s gone,

And I found out a little too late.

I was acting as if you were lucky to have me,

Doin’ you a favor, I hardly knew you were there.

But then you were gone, and it all was wrong,

Had no idea how much I cared.”

Kind of eerie, isn’t it? Songwriters Steve Kipner and John Lewis Parker couldn’t have known they wrote an ode to old War Memorial from sentimental fans of the Hogs.

This love affair began Sept. 18, 1948, with the first event at War Memorial – Arkansas vs. Abilene Christian University. The Hogs won 40-6 and finished 2-2 in the stadium that season, including a 9-0 loss to William & Mary. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

In the heyday of War Memorial, no Razorbacks fan could imagine the arrangement of splitting games between Little Rock and Fayetteville ever changing. Four home games per season often were played in Little Rock, with the balance in Fayetteville. We won’t go into all the Little Rock highlights, although they extend right up to the Bobby Petrino era. If you’re a fan who’s squeezed into those narrow seats and endured knees in your back, you may recall some of the big moments, including the “Miracle on Markham.”

But that last-second, 21-20 triumph over LSU in front of a sold-out crowd was 16 years ago. It was one of three games Arkansas played in Little Rock that season, all victories. 

For a lot of reasons, mostly political and financial, Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville is the home of the Hogs, and it should be. It can seat more than 20,000 more fans than War Memorial, although there was a time when War Memorial held the edge in capacity.

Watching the number of games played in Little Rock dwindle is like enduring a Band-Aid slowly peeled off a wound for many central, southern and eastern Arkansas fans. Some of them feel betrayed by the university, and make the case that it’s too expensive and time consuming to drive to Fayetteville for games. Then again, Arkansans were, in some ways, lucky the Hogs played in two stadiums for so many seasons. The UA, which should have ripped off the Band-Aid years ago, appeased the masses but created a monster.

Thursday’s announcement will continue the painful exposure of the wound, but it will heal with time. Fans younger than 20 don’t remember the “Miracle on Markham.” Some of us remember watching the Hogs beat No. 2 Texas A&M University on a chilly day in 1975. Those memories will fade and future fans will witness new miracles – but not on Markham.

The golden days of watching the Hogs play football in War Memorial Stadium are behind us, and the Missouri game will be played elsewhere soon enough. Maybe, just maybe, it will be replaced with a series featuring Arkansas and Arkansas State University.

 As the Chicago song suggests, the best approach for today’s Arkansas fan is to move on:

“Now being without you takes a lot of getting used to,

Should learn to live with it but I don’t want to.

Being without you is all a big mistake,

Instead of getting any easier, it’s the hardest thing to take.”

Should the Hogs continue to play a game in Little Rock

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