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Mississippi State V Arkansas

It’s a longtime stated belief of this website: The most insane fans by degree and context in the SEC are Arkansas fans. Alabama fans are obsessed, yes, but their obsession at least has a tangible, reasonable action/reward system that keeps the whole thing working. LSU fans, while not sane, have a similar if not quite as productive positive feedback loop working with the Tigers as well as a significant cultural element keeping their fandom alive. (i.e. “It’s perfectly acceptable to show up for a Saturday game on Thursday night, cook on the Parade Grounds, and live your life from a tailgate for at least 21 days not counting road games during the season.”)

Arkansas, however: Man, Arkansas fans follow and love and stay devoted to a team often good enough to give them hope, and then bad enough to invalidate the concept of hope itself. There are a thousand angles to take on the issue of letting football fans period carry guns into a stadium, but let’s start with this one. Pretend it doesn’t apply to anyone in particular, even if all of this sounds like an Arkansas fan.

Take a person. Place them in a largely rural state with the standard Southeastern mix of societal factors like loads of hunting, income inequality, an affinity for hefty incarceration rates and the death penalty, and violence. Give them a generational and cultural bond with a football team, the only football team for miles around in an NFL-free state. Put them in a conference noted for corruption and lunatic behavior, and then move them into another conference noted for normalized corruption and even more lunatic behavior. Make the level of competition absolutely savage.

Do not give them the proximity to huge talent bases. Do not give them a booster corps and state government 100% devoted at all costs to making football great, like oh just picking one at random OH HOW BOUT ALABAMA.

That’s a pretty mean cage to put this fan in, but it doesn’t sound too different from other SEC fans’ basic setups. The difference with Arkansas fans: the sticks they got and get poked with, which are sharper than most and relentless.

To name a few:

Give that team one real brush with a national title, and make sure they lose in mindbreaking fashion. Give them a spell with Lou Holtz, and see how that ends. (Predictably!) Move them into the SEC West, where they have to compete with Alabama and everyone else in the division year in and year out. Put them through some of the strangest coaching hires and tenures of any team over the past two decades.

Make sure these strange hires include the inexplicable near-excellence of Houston Nutt, a promising stint by Bobby Petrino that ended when he literally fell off a motorcycle with his mistress on the back, and a lost season under John L. Smith that didn’t even qualify as scrimmage-level football that they actually paid John L. Smith to only do for one season. By design! They did that on purpose, y’all. Pay Bret Bielema four million dollars to go 25-26 and be very, very likable while losing to Auburn 56-3 in the calendar year 2016, but also hammering Florida 31-10? That all happened, and it just happened in the last year.

If you want vintage, remind Arkansas fans about their coach getting fired the day after losing to Citadel at home. There’s no bottom here. Make sure your history isn’t bad enough to scare people off, but is just good enough to keep fans on the hook forever.

Have this happen, too.

Now, after considering all that: Of all the people you want to have guns in a stadium, are these the best choice for this bold experiment in American freedom? We’re not saying Arkansas fans are inherently insane. We are saying: it’s not your fault, because your football team made you this way.