Fans Euphoric for Bielema But Love is Fickle
Sure, I’m negative, and many have leveled that accusation at me. But I just call it being pragmatic, and it leads me to not being so disappointed with Razorback athletics very often. The downside is that I don’t get to enjoy the unrealistic euphoria others do.
Razorback fans are euphoric about new football coach Bret Bielema, as they should be. On paper, he had the best resume of any of the new SEC coaches that were hired, hands down. He will be bringing two things that fans have lacked seeing over the last few years -- defense and better offensive-line play.
Or so that is the story being pushed based on his days in the North because his old team has traditionally been known as a team with a gritty defense and punishing rushing attack.
One year ago, I was writing after the Razorbacks finished in the top five, winning 11 games, winning its bowl game, and Petrino being more popular than ever, that things could only go one way – down. But I never imagined that it would go south as badly as it did.
So now after a 4-8 season, two head coaches being fired, Don Tyson stepping down from the board of trustees, and a UA fund-raising department running a several-million-dollar deficit, things surely can only go up after those calamities.
Fans are looking for something positive out of their Programs, and they should be. Enter Coach Bielema. He’s popular as all Razorback coaches are. It’s just part of the job, and his salary reflects it, and I hope he is savoring his popularity now.
Bielema is on a trajectory that will move him from just being popular to being loved. Love, though, is fickle as human beings vacillate from loving something to hating something in a matter of minutes. In the world of Razorback fandom, it happens in a matter of seconds and goes from nuclear heat to zero Kelvin.
Petrino was aloof. Some would even call him arrogant, mean, or just too business like. He did not make it easy for anyone to love him without his winning ways. It was easy for the athletic director (I’m not going to list his long glossing associate chancellor title or whatever it is) to turn the bulk of uncertain fans into the angry mob against their previous head coach in a matter of minutes.
In a different way, Bielema suffers from this in the hate he gets from Wisconsin, which on at least one occasion he has battled on Twitter. It’s what happens when you go from loved to jilted.
Bielema is becoming loved in Arkansas for a host of reasons. He goes to Oaklawn Park and hangs out down with the ordinary gamblers. He visits dying diehard Razorback fans in the hospital. He is warm while Petrino was cold. Bielema talks like he grew up on a pig farm and his colloquialisms fit, which makes him fit.
Petrino visited Razorback clubs, but if you were ever there at one, you left with two impressions -- 1) it was all business, and 2) he was there out of obligation and because he was getting paid.
Reports from the trips Bielema is making around the state to Razorback clubs is different. He is engaging. He jokes that the only blonde you will find on the back of his bike is his wife. He doesn’t come off as though he is on a business trip. Instead, he makes you believe that he wants to break bread with you and that he’s humbled being invited – maybe something others at the UofA should take note.
Bielema also sealed the deal with Alex Collins, and regardless if the kid pans out, it was good for Razorback fans that it ended positively. Most bizarre episodes in recruiting tend not to break the Arkansas’ way, and this did because of Bielema. It makes fans love him. He was able to keep the kid engaged. A question to ask yourself -- would have Petrino have been able to close that deal?
The reality is that you can see Bielema showing up at your oyster supper or crawdad festival. Again, it makes people love him, and the fans right now are looking for someone to love.
But in the end, love is fickle and he better win.
Send your wonderful encounters with Bielema to email@example.com.