War Memorial Sold Me On the Razorbacks
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in the sixth grade and there were 17 seconds on the clock. Matt Jones threw a perfect ball to the back corner of War Memorial stadium right through the hands of the LSU secondary and into the hands of DeCori Birmingham.
It was not my first memory of a Little Rock game, but to this day, it is my most cherished. Of course, I’m talking about the original Miracle on Markham in which Arkansas defeated LSU to win the Southeastern Conference West in 2002.
I was a 12 year old girl and I was sitting at the top (the very top) of the opposite end zone from the one that pass was thrown into. I remember not being able to really see what happened but just hearing the crowd and knowing in my heart that we had won. My dad looked down at me and was more elated than I had ever seen him in my entire life. I looked back at him with something resembling agreement as sincere tears of joy just started streaming down my face. Yeah, I wasn’t normal — think little girl from “Remember the Titans.” I think this might have been the day that I truly fell in love with this sport.
If you watch the replay of this (which I recommend by the way), after that touchdown the camera immediately pans over to a sign that reads, “Can’t Beat Hogs in the Rock.” At that point, that was pretty darn near true. Since then, Arkansas has lost a few games down in the Rock but nonetheless there is an undeniable magic about that tiny little stadium. It only holds a mere 53,955 people but it gets as loud as anywhere in the SEC.
As many Little Rock kids will tell you, we fell in love with the Razorbacks at War Memorial. It was our home town, a normal city on most days, transformed just a few times a year into a wonderland of college football. It felt like the circus was in town — a wonderful circus where our parents and teachers were just people in red who wanted to have fun. Where the cars all had magnets and flags and no one sat at home in their
I had my first beer on that golf course, and if you’re from Little Rock, I bet you did too. The tailgating down there is one thing that everyone — from Little Rock native to foreign exchange student — can appreciate. It’s centralized, it’s accessible and it surely rivals any tailgating I’ve seen across this great conference. I swear at least double the amount of people who can fit in War Memorial hit the golf course every time for some pre-gamming.
But for me the true magic of a Little Rock game is only experienced once you make it inside (well if you make it inside, I guess I should say). There is no huge jumbotron; there is nothing but football and the people who love it.
It is extremely unique to have two home fields in two cities three hours away from each other. It makes the point that this is the flagship institution in this state and that is not going to change anytime soon. If that makes you angry, Howl at me, please.
Around here, we don’t have big time professional sports or interstate rivalries. In this state, if you’re talking about sports — you’re talking about the Hogs.
For example, a sportscaster from a Little Rock news station once told me that they rank the level of importance for sports stories as follows: (1) the Razorbacks (2) past Razorbacks in professional sports (3) high school sports (4) other Arkansas colleges.
It’s that simple: one state, one school, one team. And being given the unique ability to watch our team not only on our campus but in our state’s capital is not something that should ever be taken for granted. There’s been talk of ending Little Rock games before, and believe me, there will be talk of it again — especially when the contract that requires two Little Rock games a year is up in 2016.
I fell in love with college football at War Memorial Stadium and I’ve seen the atmosphere of that historic little place capture the hearts of many since then. So celebrate Arkansas, celebrate the Hogs and go have yourself a good time down in my hometown.
Oh and one last thing. You do know who the coach was for LSU during that 2002 game, don’t you? Nick Saban. See you in nine days, old friend.