Mike Beebe, Todd Day & Ron Brewer at the inaugural Mike Conley, Jr. All-Star Classic


Here are some scenes from Thursday night’s Real Deal in the Rock event featuring all-star teams from Arkansas and Tennessee. Tennessee won 81-78. Stay tuned for an upcoming piece in Sporting Life Arkansas for details and video on Razorback signees Nick Babb and Trey Thompson.

Rep. Reginald Murdock (Marianna) points while Gov. Mike Beebe and Real Deal co-founder Bill Ingram look on

Rep. Reginald Murdock (Marianna) points while Gov. Mike Beebe and Real Deal co-founder Bill Ingram look on


Former Razorback All-American Todd Day (L) shakes hands with Arkansas signee Nick Babb. Day, a Memphis native, was coach of the Tennessee All-Star team.


Coach Ron Brewer gives some pointers to all-state Daryl Macon of Parkview.


Razorback signee Anton Beard sure would have helped the Arkansas All-Star team on Thursday night, but said he couldn’t play because he’d already committed to two other All-Star games.


Former Razorback All-American Ron Brewer coached the Arkansas All-Star team. Here, he’s giving love to Davell Roby, a Tennessee player who will play for Saint Louis University.

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The Arkansas connections of Mike Conley, Jr

Conley, Jr. has grown up quite a bit from his days in Fayetteville as a nine-year-old (L)

Conley, Jr. has grown up quite a bit from his days in Fayetteville as a nine-year-old (L)

The following is republished from a Sync magazine article in 2009

The Memphis Grizzlies want your business, Arkansas.

And they’re working for it.

More radio stations carrying game broadcasts, community outreach events and 280-mile charter bus trips are a few ways that central Arkansas’ nearest pro team has tried to drum up interest in a state only miles from their FedEx Forum home.

There’s no choice, says John Pugliese, the team’s senior director of marketing and communications. Grizzlies management understood when the team arrived from Vancouver in 2001 that expanding its fan base into a tri-state area including Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee would be vital to success.

Eight years later, to what extent do Arkansans consider the Grizzlies the state’s “adopted” pro basketball team? For the sake of comparison in this specific context, let’s consider the Dallas Cowboys to be Arkansas’ adopted pro football team.

The Grizz have certainly reached across the Mississippi River. In its first years in Memphis, Grizz players, coaches, mascots and salespeople visited Arkansas cities like Jonesboro and Little Rock to promote the team, Pugliese said. The team has set up “Jr. Grizz” basketball teaching programs for children ages 6-15 in Jacksonville, Conway, Marion, Helena, West Memphis and McGehee.

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley said last week that he has taught one-day camps with “pretty good turn out” at a Boys & Girls Club in West Memphis the last two summers. Conley, whose father starred in track for the Razorbacks, spent most of his childhood in Fayetteville before eventually moving to Indianapolis, Ind.

Conley’s relatives, who are spread across Arkansas, may see new Grizzlies billboards in places like Marion, Jonesboro and West Memphis as they travel east to see Conley’s home games. The advertisements are part of a commercial outreach that includes four Arkansas radio stations broadcasting Memphis games. Fans can tune into stations based in West Helena, Marion and Jonesboro and, in central Arkansas, Conway’s KASR 92.7 FM. Grizzlies television broadcasts extend nearly 75 miles into east Arkansas, Pugliese added.

In an effort targeting Little Rock, the Grizzlies last year sold tickets of $47 and $99 for a charter bus round trip to select Memphis games.

“We see a little bit of our fan base in Arkansas growing every year,” Pugliese said. He added that roughly 10 percent of ticket holders to Grizz games are Arkansans, and a majority of those hail from West Memphis and Jonesboro, which is 64 miles from Memphis.

According to espn.com, Memphis averaged 12,745 in home attendance last season, 29th of 30 NBA teams. It’s kept the same spot through 10 home games this year by averaging 12,210.

So, let’s cut to the chase — has Arkansas developed a love for its neighboring Grizzlies?

Based on the many conversations I’ve recently had about this subject, I’d say “no.” Let’s explore possible reasons.

1) A Memphis native, and fellow Little Rock Central High School alum, told me while Arkansas is very much Razorbacks country, so is Memphis still very much Tiger country. He averred that despite their NBA credentials, the Grizzlies have yet to capture the hearts of Memphians as the University of Memphis Tigers do. They’re just too new, and haven’t won enough yet. It seems more Memphians would have to first come to love the Grizzlies before Arkansans would.

2) Winners attract new fans, but for most of the last eight years the Grizz have been a losing team. They had won three consecutive games going into last Friday’s game against Oklahoma City, and offered $3 tickets to help pack the house. Attendance was 13,048, and Memphis lost.

3) Although winning would help the problem, the Grizz lack “superstars” that can sell tickets on name alone. They almost had one in Allen Iverson this fall, but he bailed on the team and wound up signing with Philadelphia.

A pickup basketball friend of mine from Little Rock said he was disappointed to hear Iverson had left because he was planning a Memphis trip to see him play. I mentioned the team still had young, exciting players in Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo, and he laughed. He’d totally forgotten.

4) I believe Arkansas is still a football state, and that’s one reason why to many Arkies the Cowboys matter more than the Grizzlies (factor in Dallas’ winning tradition and Razorback connections like Jerry Jones and Felix Jones). This plays out even in West Memphis, the Arkansas area receiving the most Grizzlies exposure. Sonny Weems, an NBA player, said there’s plenty of enthusiasm for the Grizzlies in West Memphis, but he never attended a Grizzlies game while playing at West Memphis High School in the early 2000s. Football was his sport, he said.

This decade, central Arkansas has had chances to support NBA basketball in its own backyard but has whiffed. NBA preseason games were held in North Little Rock at what was then known as Alltel Arena from 2000-2006, peaking with an attendance of 14,672 in 2002 between the Lakers and Grizzlies, based on Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. The last two years however, saw attendances of 4,290 and 6,275. Pugliese said the Grizzlies “are open” to the possibility of returning for a preseason game but there are “no immediate plans.”

It’s too bad. I genuinely feel NBA ball provides some of the world’s greatest athletic spectacle, and nobody knows how long it will last on Arkansas’ doorstep.

18-year-old Julian Green choosing America over Germany is big news for U.S. soccer fans

Evin Demirel:

Young, exciting strikers will be a big reason why soccer is on the verge of joining football, basketball and baseball as the top spectator team sports in the U.S. The USA has never produced a world-class striker (sorry, Landon Donovan); Julian Green could become the first.

Originally posted on For The Win:

Fadi Al-Assaad/Reuters

Bayern Munich forward Julian Green, at left, fights for a ball. Fadi Al-Assaad/Reuters

The United States men’s national team’s German manager has convinced a young German-American striker that his future should be in the red, white and blue…and American soccer fans are celebrating.

In what can only be considered a coup for United States soccer, 18-year-old Bayern Munich forward Julian Green has decided to play his international soccer for the U.S. team. Green’s father, a former member of the military, is American and currently resides in Tampa, Florida. Green’s mother is German, and he holds dual-citizenship.

The news was broken first by ESPN’s Taylor Twellman, then confirmed by USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann and U.S. Soccer.

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Rooster ruins soccer game, breaks ankles with dazzling moves

Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. There simply are not enough farm animals intruding onto our American fields of play.

Former Star Razorback Quarterbacks: Where Are They Now? Part 2

Here’s part Part 2 of my feature which originally ran in Arkansas Life magazine.  

joe ferguson

Fergin’ it. Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Joe Ferguson
Years Lettered: 1970-72
Ranks with Mitch Mustain as the most highly touted high school quarterback to ever sign with Arkansas. The record-setting dropback specialist also went on the most successful pro career of any Razorback QB.

After College: After an 18-year NFL career, worked in real estate before a 1997-2000 stint as Arkansas’ quarterbacks coach. Then re-entered real estate, becoming a vice president for Lindsey & Associates.
Residence: Bella Vista, Ark.

Scott Bull
Years Lettered: 1972-74
Led Hogs to a 10-1 record in 1975 and, in the Cotton Bowl, triggered a 31-point second half to rout Georgia 31-10.

After College: Played three seasons with San Francisco 49ers. Since 1979, has been the CEO of Pace Industries, LLC, the leading die cast manufacturer in North America.
Residence: Fayetteville

ron calcagniRon Calcagni
Years Lettered: 1975-78
First quarterback of the Lou Holtz era, Calcagni led Arkansas to an 11-1 record including a stunning 31-6 upset of Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Heading into the season, the Hogs were been picked to finish sixth.

After College: Played in the Canadian Football League for three years, then started a coaching career that has included stops at high school, CFL and college levels (including a 1983-86 stint as QB/wide receivers coach at Arkansas State University). Has coached Pulaski Heights Middle School in Little Rock since 2009.
Current Residence: Conway, Ark.

Kevin Scanlon
Years Lettered: 1978-79
Led Arkansas to a 10-2 record in 1979 for a share of the SWC championship as conference offensive player of the year. His 66.2% completion rate that year remains an all-time record.

After College: Worked as an aide on ex governor Bill Clinton’s staff. Then entered finance industry, joining Stephens, Inc. in 1987 to oversee now-defunct Stephens Sports Management. Rose ranks to become executive vice president and director of Stephens’ private client group, overseeing 225 employees across eight states.

Residence: Little Rock

Tom Jones
Years Lettered: 1979-82
His tenure wasn’t as successful as predecessors’ but did help lead the Hogs to a mid-season 42-11 romp of No. 1 Texas in 1981. It was the program’s largest win ever over Texas.

After College: Moved to Little Rock and worked for a general contractor until 1987, when he returned to his hometown of Ruston, La. There, he took ownership of Triad Builders, a mainly commercial construction business, from his father “Dub” Jones. He still works in the same building as his 88-year-old father, a former Tulane All-American football player who later coached Hall of Famer Jim Brown at Cleveland.
Current Residence: Ruston, La.

brad taylor

Always around the pigskin.

Brad Taylor
Years Lettered: 1981-84
Shared time with Jones early on, then took reins to become Arkansas’ all-time leading passer, finishing with 4,802 yards.

After College: Worked for Chambers Bank in his hometown of Danville until a few years ago. On his Yell Country farm, has raised cattle and pigs – up up to 2,500 at one time.
Current Residence: Belleville, Ark.

Read the rest of this entry »

Update on Tyson Gay Suspension From Sports Illustrated Writer David Epstein

David Epstein is the author of the recent released “The Sports Gene,” the best book on the market dealing with exercise genetics and the question of why some races seem to be more successful at certain sports than others. It delves into why, for instance, people with West African heritage dominate at the world’s highest sprinting events.

On the surface, yes, this sounds like potentially inflammatory stuff. But, if you’re given to that sort of reaction, then you’re probably the type of person willing to look past surface appearances anyway.

Please look – literally – past the cover of “The Sports Gene.” You’ll be rewarded. I promise: your mind will be opened.

I discussed the book on Sporting Life Arkansas, and had the chance to interview Epstein by phone. He was gracious enough to give me some updates on former Razorback Tyson Gay, who withdrew from last week’s world championships after testing positive for a banned substance. As Epstein wrote on July 16 for si.com, “Gay has been treated by Atlanta chiropractor and anti-aging specialist Clayton Gibson. In the sports world, the term “anti-aging” has often come to signify therapy that uses hormones — usually testosterone and HGH — and testosterone precursors, like DHEA. DHEA can be obtained over the counter and is permitted in certain sports, including baseball, but not those contested in the Olympics.”

Gibson told Epstein he’d been referred to Gay by  former U.S. sprinter Jon Drummond, who  coached Gay on the 4X100 Olympic relay team in London 2012.  Drummond has also trained various NFL players and it was through these contacts that Drummond first heard about Dr. Gibson, Epstein told me. A few Baltimore Ravens had used Gibson for anti-aging treatments – including former Raven Ed Reed, who enjoyed acupuncture, chiropractic work and foot detoxes with Gibson.

One Raven was friends with a track athlete coached by Drummond. Word of Gibson’s work spread and eventually reached Gay this way, Epstein said.

Here’s more from our Aug. 11 conversation:

Q: When did Gay start using Gibson?

A: He started using the doctor prior to the Olympic trials last year.

Q: What’s the latest you have heard regarding Gay and how he’s handling the suspension he will soon receive?

A: He’s cooperating, from what I’m told. He’s going to accept the suspension and is cooperating.

Q: A suspension in this situation is normally two years. How long do you think Gay’s is going to be?

A: Anti doping now works like criminal law enforcement. I think it’s gonna be a year minimum. But it could be less than that if he gives amazing information that leads to sanctions for other athletes….

I think his only recourse for getting his suspension reduced is information that will lead to sanctions against other doctors, trainer or athletes.”

Q: How fast do you think Gay will be when he returns to competition?

A: I think it will be very difficult to be as fast as he was this year. So we expect him to be past his prime. But you look at Justin Gatlin – he came back from a suspension and ran better than anybody expected.

Countdown to Hogwhackery: Episode 1

I wish Arkansas had its own Clay Travis.

Seriously, this state needs its own version of the fevered Nashville-based sports blogger who has made “Outkick the Coverage” one of the two best humor SEC football blogs (along with “Everyday Should Be Saturday”) around.

Nobody in this state’s sports media really, truly says it like it is.  Or, rather, says it like it is with the same kind of punch Clay packs. Consider the following passage:

By the way, I’m a Tennessee fan and I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent. But if you’re a fan of an SEC school and at some point you haven’t looked around your stadium and thought, “Holy s–, there are a lot of really dumb mother—— here,” you are completely lying to yourself.

Sing it, brother.

Sing it to the high heavens.

Clay is massively entertaining in this way – the way where things  get more funny the more uncomfortably true they are. Which is why I am in a whole mess of discomfort as I watch him unveil a new Top 10 list on his blog. It’s called “The Ten Dumbest Fan Bases in America.”

Clay gets things rolling by pointing the cannon at his own state’s most popular program – the University of Tennessee. He finger paints a Chik-Fil-A BBQ sauce-stained picture of tennessee fansthe prototypical idiot UT fan – “He’s now 47 years old, still rocking his goatee and 1998 back-to-back SEC championship t-shirt.  He has been wearing “husky” jeans since 1974 and he lives in a holler in a doublewide that he inherited from his mom when she died of a rattlesnake bite in 1996.”

C-Trav keeps on keeping on with his No. 9 most dumb fan base in America – the Dallas Cowboys. Here, he describes the typical Cowboys fan as bipolar, childless and likely eking out a living in a garage somewhere in Virginia: “He has one nephew, a Redskins fan, and every Thanksgiving he says, ‘When I die you get all my Cowboy gear.’ He will laugh as if this is a joke, but he’s actually written this into his will. His entire estate is presently valued at $9,500 and that includes an optimistically valued Tom Landry autographed football which he believes is worth $11,000. “

This is hilarious, but Arkansans will notice these fanbases he’s ticking off are hitting awfully close to home. And Clay and the Arkansas fanbase have been known to throw a barb or two (hundred) in each other’s directions.

I get the sinking feeling that if he’s willing to unload on Tennessee as bad as he has, he may have something extra special up his sleeve for Arkansas. My unease is not allayed by his criteria for what, exactly, makes a fanbase crazy.

He says one reason he didn’t rank Tennessee higher than No. 10 was because the state had recent pro teams diverting the monomania of his sports fans.

On the other hand …

Craziness thrives in provincial states that see little migration. The less cross-pollination, the dumber fan bases can become. If people are constantly moving into your state from other places then you end up with hundreds of different fan bases and that kills your potency. Migration stops the crazy from percolating, the particular witches brew of insanity doesn’t fester and explode into the popular consciousness. So Tennessee fans are dumb, but they’re becomingly increasingly less so. Primarily because they’re so easily distracted by other teams.


I swear I can see it.

Off in the distance, a giant red pinata being raised to the rafters. In the shape of a pig no less…

Cammack Villlage: The Accompong Town of Arkansas

Usain Bolt grew up near Accompong Town and Cockpit Country.

Usain Bolt grew up near Cockpit Country.

I grew up outside of Cammack Village, an anomalous little enclave of a community that is both part of Little Rock and separate from it. My first memories of playing sports come from the fields and courts of its Jefferson Elementary, which I attended for seven years. I dearly recall playing games of “soccer” during my fifth-grade recess that more resembled two teams of 20 kids each swarming around a red kickball at unsafe velocities than actual sport. I spent whole summers playing water baseball at Cammack Village’s pool and basketball at its park.

The place is unique. It has its own elected mayor and aldermen, along with a city attorney, recorder, and treasurer. Yet it relies on Little Rock for its water, waste collection, and power services. Still, it maintains a police force of eight officers, as well as a fire department with one fire engine.

Decades ago, it was known as a “sundown town” – a community where African-Americans were forbidden to live. The town has roots in the 1940s  as a federal housing project and at that time all federal housing was segregated. For much of the following decades, no blacks moved into its city limits.

I didn’t think know this growing up. Cammack was all-white, yes, but that was no different from most of the surrounding Heights or Pine Valley neighborhoods. I attended Jefferson with plenty of black classmates, and played basketball with a few blacks at Cammack Park. Residents of the community might have been all white but integration had long become part of their world.

Still, the “sundown town” aspect of the community’s history surprises me.  A totally new side to a place I thought I knew well.

I got a similar feeling today when reading about Jamaica. I don’t know much about Jamaica, but after Bob Marley, jerk chicken and weed, I start thinking about sports when playing word association with the island: sprinting, Patrick Ewing, bobsledding.  I found out, though, the island nation also has an independent entity – a sovereign nation of about 500 people (only a couple hundred less people than Cammack Village) in its northwest.

The nation, Accompong Town, is near the same region as the homes of track superstars Usain Bolt and Veronica Campbell-Brown. In the early 1700s, this remote, mountainous area 3189763599_52a9e6846a_owas home to a small band of ferocious fugitive warriors who became a major thorn in Great Britain’s side. Many in the track world believe the fact Bolt grew up near the descendants of these famed warriors is no coincidence.

Their story in Jamaica starts in the 16th century, when slaves from some of the most physically powerful tribes in West Africa escaped their Spanish masters and fled into the extremely rugged mountains of west Jamaica’s Cockpit Country – an area known for star-shaped valleys called cockpits walled in by sheer cliffs.

The rulers changed – Great Britain took over from Spain – but not the resolute determination of these fugitives who hailed from tribes like the Coromantee of Ghana which were expert in warfare. They knew the foreboding terrain well, and develop  intricate spying networks and ambush techniques to take advantage of that familiarity. The ex slaves consistently defeated British troops who often dove into the jungle in search of runaways.

The British soldiers were beaten so badly that this area became a kind of sundown town for whites. Even today, “British dread is still embedded in the local names of Cockpit Country districts: Don’t Come Back and Land of Look Behind,” David Epstein wrote in his book “The Sports Gene.”

A particularly gruesome massacre took place in 1738 outside of a limestone cave now called Peace Cave. It resulted in a single British survivor, sent back to his superiors with an ear cut off. Soon afterward, the British signed a treaty with the runaway fighters. Today, their descendants do not hesitate to claim Olympic gold medalists Usain Bolt and Veronica Campbell-Brown as members of their lineage.

Whether there is a direct genetic link between the best of today’s Jamaican sprinters and the isolated, warrior genetic stock of these powerful mountain people is a matter of much debate. Really smart people are on both sides of it.

I won’t bludgeon a complicated topic like this when Epstein has done a magisterial job of breaking it down in the “The Sports Gene,” which comes out this month. Do yourself a favor and buy it.

You’ll no doubt be surprised by the many links he draws between the world of genetics research, academics, sports and political history.

Some will even hit home.

ProHoopsHistory HOF: Charley Shipp

Evin Demirel:

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9

Originally posted on Pro Hoops History:

(Big Blue History)

(Leroy Edwards [29] and Charley Shipp [27] / Big Blue History)

From 1995 to 2005, it was fairly commonplace to see professional basketball players completely skip college for the moneyed pastures of the NBA. Nearly 60 years before, though, players routinely skipped the college process for pro basketball. That’s not to say it was the norm, but it was fairly common. Why spend time at college not getting paid when there was a Great Depression afoot?

One of the great players to take the prep-to-pro route was Charley Shipp. When he jumped from high school to the pros in 1936, the NBA was still well over a decade away. The major league that would accept Shipp’s services was the Midwest Basketball Conference, soon to be the National Basketball League (NBL). The team would be the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots.

Shipp was never a big time scorer, but was a dependable source…

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ProHoopsHistory HOF: Michael Jordan

Evin Demirel:

I love this video. It’s amazing to think that Mount Mutombo would actually try to trash talk MJ like this, but apparently the man really thought he could keep from being posterized. Still, I’m sure Mutombo enjoyed some success denying MJ on other dunk attempts – I’d love to see a blocked dunks/completed dunk ratio of MJ vs. all the big men of the 90s – Shaq, Ewing, Mourning, Robinson, Mutombo, Olajuwon, etc.

Originally posted on Pro Hoops History:

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan determinedly emerging from the vice-like defense of the Bad Boys Detroit Pistons is the perfect photo to recapture the essence of his career. Emerging from the fiery trial of battling Detroit, Jordan captured six NBA titles. Before that emergence he was simply another in a long wave of surefire talents, but not necessarily among the handful of all-time legends.

From the vantage point of 2013 that seems absurd Jordan never was considered among the handful of all-time legends, but in 1990, Jordan’s career was incomplete and his true status unknown. In his first six seasons, Jordan had won four scoring titles, an MVP award, and a Defensive Player of the Year award. The Bulls as a team, though, had suffered three losing seasons and only one campaign over 50 wins.

But in 1990 they had pushed the Detroit Pistons to a decisive 7th game. In that do-or-die contest, Jordan…

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