Charles D. Smith
When Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times,” he was not referring to the experience of Kentucky football fans this past weekend in Fayetteville, Arkansas. But he could have been.
Worst of times: There have been many, many lows for Wildcat football over the past 50 years. But, until this season, nothing has been lower than the beating handed to Kentucky by an underachieving Arkansas team. The Cats were absolutely powerless to stop the Razorbacks on defense and were just as inept on offense. Fortunately, the stormy weather stopped the carnage when the game was called off in the third quarter.
In more than 120 plus years of UK football, this game could be the nadir. When thunderstorms rumbled through during the second quarter, the game was delayed with UA leading 14-0. Fans were directed to empty the stands and wait in the concourses. It looked like a scene from a disaster movie with thousands of people wearing cheap ponchos (colored orange, burgundy, clear, and some blue) soaked and huddled in groups, standing and sitting on the damp asphalt. But there were funnel cakes, so it was not really a disaster. In fact, most of the Razorback fans seemed very pleased and endured the minor hardship with ease. But, when the game restarted, things got no better for Kentucky. They looked slower, smaller and more confused than their Arkansas counterparts.
Nothing at the game went right for Kentucky or its fans.
Fans may remember that the final year of the Bill Curry era was very dreary. The Joker Phillips era has officially arrived at the same destination. There would seem to be no way now that Joker will retain his “dream job” as the Kentucky head coach.
Hopefully, the new coach, whoever that may be, can re-energize the fan base and the program. As for the rest of the season, well, as Kentucky fans have so often been forced to say, basketball starts soon.
Best of times: Fayetteville is tucked away in the northwest corner of Arkansas, bordered on the south by the Boston Mountains. It is an absolutely charming small town, which, understandably, is focused on the university. Dickson Street is a pedestrian-friendly area of several blocks with restaurants, shops and pubs that are in a variety of historic and modern buildings. Most urban areas are trying very hard to create what Fayetteville already has.
Carnall Hall was built in 1905, served as a women’s dormitory and was later converted to a classroom building. In the 1980s the university was going to demolish the building to make way for a new structure. Many interests got together to save the old dorm from the wrecking ball and with much effort and cooperation converted it into an inn, staffed and run by U of A students majoring in the hospitality program. Only a mile from the stadium but still on the campus, it is a very desired spot to stay on football weekends, and is a shining example of what can be done with adoptive reuse of old buildings.
The food, beverages and accommodations were all top notch, but what really distinguished Fayetteville as a place to visit were the people of the town and university. All I encountered were friendly and welcoming. Any state or area trying to promote tourism could learn a key lesson from those folks: treat people nice and they will want to come back. Travelling on the road with Kentucky in the SEC, leads one to a variety of cities, towns and universities that are all interesting and unique. Fayetteville may be the best.