Here’s part Part 2 of my feature which originally ran in Arkansas Life magazine.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 the 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…
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 was 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.
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?
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.
Ten years ago, on May 1st, President George W. Bush stood on board of the USS Abraham Lincoln 30 miles off the coast of San Diego and declared “major combat operations in Iraq have ended” and that “in the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.” It was a bold, impressive claim, given the war had officially begun only 43 days before. But, at the time, G.W. seemed like a pretty impressive man. Before the speech, he’d reportedly become the first sitting president to make an arrested landing on an aircraft carrier.
Bush’s Top Gun moment turned out to be astoundingly premature, of course. U.S. combat involvement in Iraq went on, and on; thousands more Americans died there. The speech, meanwhile, quickly became a cornerstone moment of the Bush era. Images from its broadcast – the nearby “Mission Accomplished” sign, Bush’s olive flight jacket and the ejection harness between his legs – in time accrued a farcical touch and made Bush’s words seem boastful.
For sure, we’ve seen some pretty outlandish claims and bad and/or off-base boasts made by influential sports figures.
Mostly, they’re predictions gone awry. And, mostly, they’re pretty laughable in hindsight. Which is the great thing separating sports and entertainment from more serious aspects of society.
Here are some of the worst sports boasts of all time:
Geriatric smack talk.
It’s not a fledgling punk band, or some ridiculously titled new lipstick flavor.
It’s what star players from two of the most dominant college basketball teams in the 1940s haven’t seemed able to curtail every time the topic is brought up: Did Adolph Hitler, Hirohito and the University of Wyoming swipe a national championship which should have belonged to the Fighting Illini?
The Wyoming Cowboys won the NCAA championship in 1943, then beat the NIT champions for good measure, but many contemporaries believed Illinois was by far and away the nation’s best team that year. The “Whiz Kids” of Urbana-Champaign were two-time defending Big Ten champions, ranked No. 1 in the nation, won 11 of their 12 conference games by double digits and finished the season on the type of roll that could put Cinnabon out of business: their last three wins were 50-26 against 1941 national champ Wisconsin, 86-44 against Northwestern and 90-25 against Chicago.
Ahead of Illinois was the NCAA tournament and an eight-team field including Georgetown, Texas and Washington. In later years, the Whiz Kids agreed they would have swept everybody else away. “I think we could have walked through it,” ‘43 team member Jack Smiley told The News-Gazette in 1999. “We weren’t even close relative to competition from below.”
“We would have won it all,” his teammate Gene Vance agreed.
So, what happened?
I had a good interview with Wadie Moore, the assistant executive director for Arkansas’s organizing body for high school athletics, about the enduring issue of incomplete records. Here’s the resulting article:
When Wadie Moore started compiling a record book for the Arkansas Activities Association around 1996, he wanted it to be as comprehensive as possible.
The assistant executive director for Arkansas’s organizing body for high school athletics combed through archives and drew on the contacts he’d made in his decades of sportswriting for the Arkansas Gazette.
All the while, though, Moore knew the record book he was creating told an incomplete story of his state’s athletic past. He knew there had been two high school sports associations divided by race until 1967, when the all-white Arkansas Activities Association integrated with the all-black Arkansas State Athletic Association.
When compiling the book, which includes a list of state champions in various sports and all-time leaders in statistical categories, Moore used official records kept by the AAA dating back to the early 1900s. But he didn’t find any records kept by the ASAA. The paperwork, if it existed, apparently wasn’t transferred to the AAA headquarters. So, Moore didn’t include marks set by all-black powerhouse programs in basketball, football and track like Pine Bluff Merrill, Little Rock Dunbar, Horace Mann, Scipio Jones, Hot Springs Langston and Texarkana Washington high schools.
The result affects not only the AAA record book, but all the news reports that use it as a source.
Read the rest of the Arkansas Times piece here.
In researching this topic, I’ve discovered every Southern state has made different degrees of progress in exhibiting the history of its pre-integration, all-black athletic association.
West Virginia appears to have made the most headway of all non-Northern states with a deeply segregated racial past. The border state appears to have the oldest all-black association – dating back to at least 1925 – and today has an active All-Black Schools Sports & Academic Hall of Fame that holds ceremonies to celebrate an aspect of that state’s heritage that likely would otherwise remain vastly under-reported.
The following is my mini profile of golfer Stacy Lewis, a former Razorback All-American who this weekend was ranked No. 1 in the world. Beneath, I’ve attached some previously unpublished questions and answers in which she discusses more of her Arkansas connection:
Before daring to imagine a pro career, golfer Stacy Lewis simply focused on getting through her first year at the University of Arkansas. She’d already battled scoliosis through her teen years in Texas. In public, she wore a back brace under her clothes.
But the toughest test came with intense pain following a summer 2003 surgery to straighten her spine. Doctors had to deflate a lung and move organs to fit a steel rod in her back. Confined to bed for eight weeks, even getting up for the bathroom was a major ordeal for Lewis.
In the end, all that misery bestowed a supercharged gratitude and work ethic toward the game. Lewis became better.
Much, much better.
As in 12-tournament-wins-in-college and 2007-NCAA-champion better.
Those Razorback days have helped catapult her to great success in the professional world. The Golf Writers Association of America named Lewis its 2012 Player of the Year. On March 8, the 28-year-old gets her latest honor: induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
“It is a huge honor,” Lewis wrote in an e-mail. “I never planned on playing golf past college so this type of award is a surprise and a bonus.”
[The above piece originally published in Arkansas Life magazine.]
Original Q & A
Q: You’ll be one of the youngest inductees ever to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
What went through your mind after you were notified you would be inducted?
Is this something you imagined happening this early when you were a freshman at the UA?
A: I was surprised and excited about this award. It is a huge honor to be recognized by the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. When I began my collegiate career, I never planned on playing golf past college so this type of award is a surprise and a bonus.
Q: Outside of track, very few – if any – Razorback student-athletes got All-American honors all four years. With such an overall successful career, what do you consider your most satisfying moment playing golf in college? Why?