Loose Leaves, 1st published Sunday 2 September 2001 in The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas
By Ben Pollock
Copyright 2001 Donrey Media Group
In days, Northwest Arkansas will be overrun by large vehicles flying fluttering red pennants indicating — not the communist overthrow or seduction of Gov. Mike Huckabee –the return of far-flung University of Arkansas football fans.
You can be a local, fervent UA alumnus, Razorback fan or both and still be off-put by these overly cheery, often forceful and surprisingly loud people in polo shirts.
They take over Fayetteville on home-game weekends. Thus, local residents need advice.
With this season’s expansion of Razorback Stadium from some 50,000 to more than 70,000 seats, close to campus begins further away.
• Thus, the first tip for locals is that the best seat is in the den.
Your den — or elsewhere if the game is just on radio — has a refrigerator and microwave nearby, which only the skybox guests have, but they’ll be wheezing from the smell of new carpet. You won’t get nosebleeds from the new seats’ altitude.
Your parking is closer.
• Don’t leave home on home-game days. The streets are clogged, and will be so for more miles due to the enlarged stadium.
For Saturday afternoon games, the traffic begins Friday and is again OK on Sunday. Following night games, Sundays are best spent reading the paper or working in the yard, away from the curb.
Traffic is heavy yet also erratic. Folks get lost. Also, drivers prowl for free-if-distant parking and also for short-cuts. Their glares indicate they think that “Dead End” signs are but a ruse.
• With tables set for 70,000 fans plus teams, bands, media and staff, not just local but area cafes and bars will be packed. Cook at home, having groceries bought by Friday.
If you’re grilling, do it out front, flaunting the burgers and drinks at the passing football fans, who are driving from restaurant to restaurant hoping to find anything for less than a 90-minute wait.
• Game-day Saturdays are just the time for many Northwest Arkansans to drive to Tulsa to shop or just look around.
• Also recommended are scenic drives south and east on the various Pig Trails. Spending the entire day at Beaver Lake is inviting; you won’t need a radio; the game can be heard from all the boats.
• Alternatively,drive to Little Rock for Park Plaza, McCain Mall and the delightful River Market. Go to the zoo in Fair Park. It is also the home of the Razorbacks’ other coliseum, War Memorial Stadium.
If Little Rockers somehow detect you’re from the Ozarks, you simply must tell them you are there for the game — didn’t they know that there’s been a policy change and ALL UA home games will be played in Little Rock every year, forever.
Little Rockers need their legs pulled; they act as if Northwest Arkansas is but a suburb of their Pulaski County. Either that or we’re a theme park that’s just a bit of a drive.
• Shopping locally can be ideal during games. Shops and the mall will be deserted. Just watch the time and get home before the middle of the fourth quarter. If the weather’s bad, leave sooner.
• In planning how to deal with the up-to 35,000 SUVs, minivans and Cadillacs (holding the 70,000 guests), it helps to consider whether the Saturday in question is summertime-humid, fall-balmy, fall-downpour, or, toward November, fall-freezing.
A hot Saturday means that popular drinks are the cold ones.
A brisk fall day brings out nostalgia,and that means libations.
A wet Saturday necessitates fortification.
Ticket holders fight a cold Saturday with trips to concession stands or stretching toward the cooler under the seat. This is warming exercise.
At least one home game will undergo a downpour. Do Razorback stalwarts open umbrellas or cover their heads with programs? Observation over the years indicates many are fair-weather fans and head, soggily,to the mall or the movies.
• One part of UA Chancellor John White’s goal of a student- centered research university (isn’t that contradictory?) is a nerd round-up, new this term.
Students who during the game grab a few quiet hours of study are to be kidnapped at their labs and libraries by the Chamber of Commerce.
They will be taken to video arcades and movie houses with free passes. The pocket-protector pack also is given pizza hot from the oven — not tepid as delivered. All this will persuade them to stay at the UA for graduate school and then to start billion-dollar businesses here.
• There is one advantage to being in a football town: The least painful and least compromising way for grown-ups of all ages –I mean all ages — to feel again is to spend Saturday evening hanging out on Dickson Street near campus. We and our bellies and gray hair will stand out, but no problem; the current students are nice. The constabulary is assuringly out in force but ignore so-called victimless infractions unless brought bluntly to their attention.
We of the Ozarks can be gracious hosts.