CrossFit & The Back Porch-ification of Women’s Backsides

Evin Demirel:

There are 58 CrossFit gyms across Arkansas. This exercise craze, like all other forms of fitness in American culture, is rooted in post-World War II prosperity which forced housewives to find ways to stay thin.

The 1950s brought us The Jack LaLanne Show, in which LaLanne used regular household items like a dining room chair to help women tighten up their “front porch [their stomach], side porch [their hips], and their back porch [their buttocks].” The fact that the program remains the longest lasting TV show with a single host, from 1953 to 1985, illustrates the popularity of LaLanne’s instruction.

Originally posted on Sport in American History:

A week ago many Americans made a pledge to exercise more. Some of you may be sore from the grueling workouts you suffered through the last seven days. Others may feel convicted that you already gave up. Personally, I can barely walk because my legs are so sore. Thankfully, I sit at a desk and write all day. Nevertheless, my New Year’s resolutions and the larger class sizes at my own gym got me thinking about exercise and American culture. The first book that came to mind was Shelly McKenzie’s Getting Physical: The Rise of Fitness Culture in America. In her excellent book, she analyzes the relationship between the changing trends in exercise and American culture. Riffing on her examples, I thought readers might find a brief outline of the changes in American exercise after World War II interesting.

In the 1950s America entered the golden age of capitalism…

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Jonathan Williams Takes Back His “Hand’s Up, Don’t Shoot” Pose

This is the time of year when we get comprehensive. What mattered most, what was best, what will be remembered: there is something about the late days of December that puts people in a retrospective mood. So it goes, and so it has gone, and so a storyline has emerged that’s maybe more comforting than true. Anyway, it is almost time to say goodbye to 2014, The Year Sports Reclaimed Its Social Conscience.

To be fair, the ingredients are there — LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Reggie Bush and others wore their “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts, and so made common cause with a massive public movement for more just policing; a cadre of St. Louis Rams emerging from a stadium tunnel with their hands up, in solidarity with the movement in nearby Ferguson, MO; after two police officers were killed in Brooklyn, the New York Giants and Jets took the field brandishing NYPD hats.

Add to that mix entire college basketball lineups that have voiced their opposition — usually through those same comic sans I Can’t Breathe t-shirts — to the verdicts in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, and their support of the movements that rose in their wake. In almost every sport, at seemingly all levels, athletes have openly spoken their minds about police brutality and social justice. In California, the issue sparked a Monday morning protest even at the high school level, after one girls’ program was banned from a tournament for intending to wear “I Can’t Breathe” shirts. The ostensible wall between sports and Everything Else has always been false, but now it was flattened. Athletes in every sport, at the professional level and at every level below, were making it clear that they would not sit this debate out.

Not so fast.

While in the last month the American sports scene has experienced a level of social activism not seen since the Vietnam era, there has been one glaring omission: college football. The story of the Razorbacks’ All-SEC running back Jonathan Williams makes this evident, as I wrote today in The Classical. 

Read more about Williams and the rest of my column, entitled “College Football’s Loud ‘No Comment'”, here. 


Arkansas State’s Coaching Carousel of Success Not So Historic?

Arkansas State fans often feel slighted by media in central Arkansas (despite KATV sports anchor Steve Sullivan’s strong ASU ties as an alum), but reasons for that chip on the shoulder are dwindling. On Christmas Day, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette made an unusual move in naming not one – but 10 individuals – as its “Sportsmen of the Year.” More unusual was the fact the sportsmen weren’t associated with the University of Arkansas.

Reporter Troy Schulte did a good job writing the piece [$$], and he got some interesting insight from ASU linebacker Frankie Jackson, one of the ten fifth-year seniors who persevered despite going through the tumult of five head coaches in five years.  “No matter what came in, it was still, turn to your left, turn to your right and you still have the same players you knew from your freshman year,” Jackson said of his classmates from the 2010 signing class. “It wasn’t the head coach, it was the team that I wanted to be a part. It didn’t matter that Roberts left, Freeze left, or Malzahn left or Harsin left — I was still with my team.”

Those are rare words coming from a player still playing for a mid-major/major Division I football program.

Usually, football program try to sell the coach as the face of the program for obvious recruiting reasons. Putting the coach front and center as the program’s public figurehead also helps boost coaches’ show ratings and sell tickets for booster club meetings. Arkansas State’s situation is so unique, however, that the “players first” slant is the only one that works without coming off as ridiculously out of tune. That being said, it will be interesting to see if the ASU football program makes this article part of its recruiting package to its current high school and junior college targets.

On one hand, this kind of front page exposure and honor seems like something the Red Wolves would want to play up to its recruits – “Hey, look, the Hogs aren’t the only major football player in state, and Arkansas’ biggest newspaper agrees!” On the other hand, if you’re current ASU coach Blake Anderson, what do you do say in response to Jackson’s words here –

“It wasn’t the head coach, it was the team that I wanted to be a part.”

Anderson’s got much bigger things to worry about, of course. He’s leading ASU into the GoDaddy Bowl on Jan. 4 in Mobile, Ala., where it hopes to pick up its third consecutive bowl win. This would cap the fourth consecutive winning season for the ASU, a major accomplishment considering from 1992 to 2010 the program had endured 16 losing seasons.

For the Red Wolves, annual coaching turnover has gone hand and hand with consistent winning since Hugh Freeze took over for Steve Roberts in December 2010.  Schulte points out that in the last 100 years this unusual combination is unprecedented: “The only other known team to go through such change at the sport’s highest division was Kansas State in 1944-1948, but those teams won just four games through that transition.”

Going back farther in time, though, there is one program that likely comes closest to replicating ASU’s combination of high success and high coaching turnover.

From 1895 to 1906, Oregon had 10 winning seasons and two undefeated ones. Still, the Webfoots went through nine coaching changes in that span. Granted, college football coaching was then approximately 6.5 million times less lucrative in that era, so the young men who so often became coaches immediately after their playing college careers sometimes jumped ship simply to pursue a career in which they could make serious money.

Take Hugo Bezdek, who led Oregon to a 5-0-1 record in 1906, his only season there. Instead of returning, though, he returned to his alma mater the University of Chicago to pursue medical school. Still, nobody forgot the Prague native’s prowess. “Bezdek is by nature imbued with a sort of Slavic pessimism that makes him a coach par excellence,” according to a 1916 Oregon Daily Journal article. “His success lies in his ability to put the fight into his men.”

Someone at the University of Arkansas heard about Bezdek’s ability and reached out to the 24-year-old to offer a position as the football, track and baseball coach (Oh, and entire athletic directorship, while he was at it). Bezdek arrived in Fayetteville in 1908 and a year later his team went undefeated (7-0-0), winning the unofficial championships of the South and Southwest. In 1910, the team was 7-1-0. Impressed with the mean-tempered hogs that roamed the state, Bezdek observed that his boys “played like a band of wild Razorbacks” after coming home from a game against LSU. The new name caught on, and in 1914 the Cardinals officially became the Razorbacks.


The Red Wolf Ten

Below are the ten 5th year seniors who have ASU on the cusp of 36 wins – what would be its second-most successful four-year run ever. “It’s a miracle on a cotton patch up here,” former coach Larry Lacewell told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Lacewell, ASU’s all-time winningest coach, led the program to its best four-year run of 37 victories in 1984-1987. Lace well said these seniors “brought tradition and pride back to Arkansas State.”

1. Brock Barnhill; DB; Mountain Home; Former walk-on; special teams contributor

2. William Boyd; WR; Cave City; Walk-on earned scholarship. Caught first career pass this season

3. Tyler Greve; C; Jonesboro; Started 12 games at center this season

4. Frankie Jackson; DB; Baton Rouge; Played RB and LB (917 career yards, 65 career tackles)

5. Ryan Jacobs; DB; Evans, Ga.; Played mostly on special teams; 11 tackles, 1 fumble recovery

6. Qushaun Lee; MLB; Prattville, Ala.; Fourth all-time on ASU’s career tackles list (390)

7. Kenneth Rains; TE; Hot Springs;7 starts; 14-160 receiving, 3 TDs

8. Andrew Tryon; SS; Russellville; 24 starts; 149 tackles, 20 breakups, 3 INTs;

9. Alan Wright; RG; Cave City; 21 starts

10. Sterling Young; FS; Hoover, Ala.; 45 consecutive starts: 268 tackles, 151 unassisted; 7-59 INTs

NB: Defensive tackle Markel Owens also would have been a fifth-year senior this season. He was shot and killed at his mother’s home in Jackson, Tenn., in January, 2014.

Above information taken from Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and ASU athletic department.


The First D1 Arkansan Basketball Player to Notch a 20/20/4/3 Stat Line in Decades

Anthony Livingston got a shout out from SportsCenter on Saturday night.

Anthony Livingston got a shout out from SportsCenter on Saturday night.

Arkansas State forward Anthony Livingston goes by the nickname “Big Ant” despite standing 6’8″ and weighing 230 pounds. He’s going to find hanging on to that alias even more difficult after notching a gargantuan stat line on Saturday, when he became the first Division 1 player in decades to score 20 points, grab 20 rebounds, dish four assists and block three shots for an Arkansas university.

The Red Wolves (4-4) needed every bit of the Washington D.C. native’s help against Marshall, too. Early in the second half, Arkansas State trailed the Thundering Herd by eight points but Livingston’s shooting helped key an 8-0 run while his energy on the boards helped the Red Wolves out-rebound Marshall by 15 in the second half.

Arkansas State won 67-58.

It was the second time since 1997 a Sun Belt player had a 20/20/4/3 and the most un-ant-like performance by an ASU big since January 1994 when 6’7″ Jeff Clifton lifted the program atop his shoulders and Incredible Hulked it to a 66-54 win against UALR with 43 points, 25 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks. That performance, which remains the most statistically dominant by a Division I big man at an Arkansas university in the last two decades, came on the heels of a UALR player boycott involving Derek Fisher.

Three years later, Trojan power forward Montrelle Dobbins put up 27 points, 20 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 3 steals and 5 turnovers in a 56-64 road loss to South Alabama. That same year, UAPB’s Fred Luckett had 22 points and 21 rebounds in a 68-116 road loss to Mississippi Valley State.

Since then, there had been only two 20/20 games by Division I Arkansans:

1. 1998

Nicky Davis (UA) – 24 points, 23 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 blocks, 2 steals, 6 turnovers

UA won 97-71 at home against Jackson State

2. 2005

Rashad Jones-Jennings (UALR) – 23 points, 30 rebounds*, 1 assist, 0 blocks, 3 steals, 3 turnovers

UALR won 72-54 at home versus UAPB

*Jones-Jennings’ 30 rebound night remains the second-highest total in D1 college basketball since 1997. How impressive is that? It’s the second-best output out of more than 1.8 million individual performances.

Just in case you’re curious – and I’m guessing you’re slightly curious if you’ve made it down here – below are all Division I players to reach at least 20 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks in a single game since 1997.

1. Tim Duncan (Wake Forest) 1997

2. Mike Sweetney (Georgetown) 2002

3. Brandon Hunter (Ohio) 2003

4. Yemi Nicholson (Denver) 2006

5. Michael Beasley (Kansas State) 2007

6. Matt Mullery 2009 (Brown)

7. Keith Benson 2010 (Oakland)

8. Tony Mitchell (North Texas) 2012

It’s very difficult to tell how many times – if any – an Arkansan student-athlete accomplished this stat line before Livingston. Former Razorback star Dean Tolson, for instance, had five games of 20 or more rebounds in the early 1970s, and it’s likely he also scored at least 20 points in some of those games. But it’s hard to find individual box scores from those games, and it’s time-consuming to search for them through newspaper microfilm. Plus, as my main HogStats.com man below points out, blocks and assists weren’t tracked in that era:


Wally Hall, the Arkansas Activities Association & the Loss of a State’s Athletic Heritage

Before Malik Monk, this man torched local nets like no other. His name, though, keeps being forgotten.

We’re taught in school that history, at its core, is comprised of facts: so-and-so did such-and-such on a certain date. Learn enough of those, and you know enough to write an essay, make your passing grade, and get on with graduation.

Unfortunately, history is a lot less clear cut than that.

The people wielding the most power often determine what the “facts” are, and which ones are passed down to following generations. Our past, it turns out, is riddled with voids. We can’t fill them all, but it can be enough of a start to acknowledge they are there.FullSizeRender

This came to mind when reading today’s column by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sports editor Wally Hall. At the end, he praises Jim Bryan, an Arkansas prep basketball legend who recently suffered an embolism. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, Hall’s pretty generous when it comes to wishing folks well.

What concerns me is the part where Bryan is described as “the second all-time leading scorer in Arkansas high school basketball history.” That’s not true. In terms of all-time career points scored, Bryan is listed as the state’s fourth greatest scorer.

INDIVIDUAL – REGULAR SEASON OFFENSE – MOST POINTS SCORED
Career

4,896 Bennie Fuller, Ark School Deaf, 1968-71

3,619 Jacob Roark, Concord, 2011-14

3,238 James Anderson, Junction City, 2004-07

2,792 Jim Bryan, Valley Springs, 1955-58

2,755 Dederick Lee, Clarksville, 2009-13

2,317 Ronnie Parrott, Tuckerman, 1976-79

2,239 Payton Henson, Siloam Springs, 2009-13

2,018 Allan Pruett, Rector, 1963-66

The above records are kept by the Arkansas Activities Association, the state’s governing body of high school athletics. The fact that Hall missed Bryan’s standing by a place or two, to me, isn’t too big of a deal. What’s far more important is what the records don’t include. Namely, any mention of Jackie Ridgle and Eddie Miles – potentially the two most potent scorers in Arkansas high school history before current Bentonville star Malik Monk.

Miles, for one, averaged 21 points as a freshman, and then upped that each year to top out at around 32 points points a game as a senior. With numbers like that, there’s no doubt the North Little Rock native deserves a spot near the top of the all-time scoring list. But he’s not there, nor is Ridgle, because they played for all-black schools with records that have been largely lost, forgotten or destroyed. Even those which still exist and can be verified – such as Miles’ and Ridgle’s – haven’t been incorporated into the AAA’s record book. Until that happens, it shouldn’t be viewed as a true, official account of the state’s prep history.

This is a major issue that needs to be addressed. I’ve written about it time and time again. To the credit of the AAA, its assistant executive director Wadie Moore has been sympathetic to this problem and he has added Miles’ name to one category. But one mention isn’t enough when he (and Ridgle) deserve mention in multiple categories:

Per Game – Season

50.9 Bennie Fuller, Ark. School Deaf, 1970-71

46.0 Larry Stidman, Mount Ida, 1989

32.7 Josh Smith, Prairie Grove, 1996-97

31.0 Steven Delph, Guy-Perkins, 1987-88

30.3 Eddie Miles, NLR Jones, 1958

30.2 Marvin Newton, Viola, 1956-57

29.2 Glen Fenter, Charleston, 1977-78

28.8 Bill James, Armorel, 1957

28.0 Randy Porter, Luxora, 1979-80

28.0 Kyle James, Brinkley, 1986-87

The AAA means well, but I want it to do a more thorough job with its record books. Jim Bryan, for instance, owns the top two spots in the season scoring totals below. But where are the season point totals for the three people in front of him in the all-time career scoring list? Surely, a Bennie Fuller season or two should be here. Same with Jacob Roark and James Anderson, not to mention the likes of Eddie Miles or Jackie Ridgle.

 Season

1,190 Jim Bryan, Valley Springs, 1957-58

1,152 Jim Bryan, Valley Springs, 1956-57

1,125 Jermaine Mansko, Tuckerman, 1992

1,059 Matt Secrease, Weiner, 2002-2003 Season

1,041 Allan Pruett, Rector, 1965-66

This issue doesn’t just apply to Arkansas. It’s occurring in other states, too, especially in the South. But some states – like Texas – do a better job than others. Arkansas should join their ranks.


Below are more scoring marks, according to the AAA’s 2014 record book. (One glance down the names shows why Rex Nelson tabbed Bennie Fuller as the “Wilt Chamberlin of the Deaf“)

Single Game

108 Morris Dale Mathis (St. Joe), 1-25-1955

102 Bennie Fuller Ark. Deaf School, 12-4-1971

98 Bennie Fuller, Ark. Deaf School, 1970

77 Bennie Fuller, Ark School Deaf, 1970

65 Bennie Fuller, Ark. School Deaf, 1970

64 Bill McElduff, Marianna, 1944

61 Brooks Taylor, Buffalo Island Central, 2006

59 Wayne Lemon,s Dyess, 1952

58 Chester Barner, Jr., Marmaduke, 1959

58 Josh Bateman, Marmaduke, 2002


Trey Flowers’ Heir Apparent? 4-Star Jeremiah Ledbetter Signs with Arkansas

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Did another future All-SEC defender sign today?

Last month, the Razorback defense played as well over a three and a half game stretch as it had at any point since its 1964 national championship season. Maintaining such intensity and execution won’t be easy, though. Significant losses loom ahead of the 2015 season. The defense loses two all-SEC caliber players in senior linebacker Martrell Spaight and senior defensive end Trey Flowers, and possibly a third in redshirt sophomore Darius Philon.

Philon, the nation’s 14th-ranked defensive tackle, is getting feedback on high how he’d be taken in the 2015 NFL Draft. Regardless of whether he leaves, Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith knows it’s vital he restock the cupboard this coming off-season.

Along those lines, there’s good news.

Today, one of the nation’s most highly sought JC defensive linemen signed a National Letter of Intent with Arkansas. Jeremiah Ledbetter, a 6’3″, 280 pound four-star recruit ( according to Rivals.com), will join the team in January after spending the past two seasons at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.

From Arkansas’ sports information department:

A first-team All-Jayhawk Conference selectee, Ledbetter (@leddy_55) completed his sophomore campaign at Hutchinson with 76 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, nine quarterback hurries and two recovered fumbles. Ledbetter concluded his sophomore season as a second-team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American.

A native of Orlando, Florida, Ledbetter finished his senior year of high school at Gainesville (Ga.) High School, the same high school as Arkansas senior linebacker Daunte Carr. Ledbetter then redshirted his freshman year with the Blue Dragons.

Ledbetter selected the Razorbacks over offers from Georgia, Oklahoma State, Florida, South Carolina, Auburn and Miami (Fla.).

“Jeremiah is another fantastic addition to our growing 2015 class,” said Bielema. “He will bring experience and physicality to our defensive line and joins a group of outstanding future Razorbacks that will make an immediate impact with our team. The sky is the limit with Jeremiah and we can’t wait to see what he’ll bring during spring practice on and off the field.”

According to Rivals.com, Arkansas’ 2015 signing class ranks No. 20 in the nation. Ledbetter joins quarterback Ty Storey (@tystorey4), offensive lineman Zach Rogers (@HebronHawks75), defensive end Daytrieon Dean (@_dwoop) and defensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt (@Y3llur) as Arkansas’ early signees that will enroll January.

Arkansas will travel to Houston to take on the Texas Longhorns in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl. The SEC/BIG12 matchup will take place at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday, Dec. 29 at 8 p.m. and will be nationally televised on ESPN.

To see Ledbetter’s 2014 highlights, click here.


Did UALR Volleyball Have the Greatest Arkansan Student-Athlete this Century?

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UALR volleyball player Edina Begic’s athletic brilliance puts her in a class of her own when it comes to recent achievements of student-athletes at Division I and II colleges in the state of Arkansas. The three-time Sun Belt player of the year led her program to a 20-0 record in conference and an NCAA Tournament win last week against No. 11 Kansas – at Kansas.

She had the Lady Trojans on the brink of the Sweet 16. I’m not sure if any in-state Division I university, outside of the University of Arkansas, has made a Sweet 16 in any team sport. Here are some of Begic’s other achievements:

*Last year, set an NCAA record by winning a conference player of the week award seven times, five of them back to back.

*Broke that record this season by winning the award eight times.

*In 2012, ranked No. 1 in the nation in kills (an attack not returned by the opponent, resulting in a point) per set.

*In 2013, ranked No. 3 in kills per set and paired with teammate Sonja Milanovic to form the nation’s top spiking duo (with 9.09 kills per set).

*Consensus top hitter in program history, finishing first in career kills, second in digs and fourth in service aces.

Begic has competitors for the title of Greatest Arkansas Student-Athlete since 2000. As I wrote this week in Arkansas Times, “Henderson State University quarterback Kevin Rodgers just finished a career in which he also shattered multiple career records and finished as a three-time conference player of the year, but his team didn’t win a post-season game. Former Harding University basketball player Matt Hall and Kayla Jackson, a former University of Arkansas at Monticello softball star, also both won multiple conference player of the year and All-America awards.

In Division I women’s sports, former UCA basketball player Megan Herbert comes closest to Begic. Herbert, a three-time conference player of the year (who should have won it all four years), was one of the nation’s most prolific rebounders despite standing 5-foot-10. But she never led a team nearly as impressive as Begic’s 2014 squad, and her Sugar Bears never broke into the NCAA Tournament.

On the Division I men’s side, former Razorback Darren McFadden had some legendary games against elite competition, and he twice won the nation’s award for best running back, but his overall game-to-game running statistics were not as impressive as Begic’s kill statistics.”

Read the rest of the article here.


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