Is it time to stop giving a crap about the school out west?

The headline is more directed at me than it is to you. After all, your crap-giving is your business, not mine. But if you’re like me – an Arkansas State grad with an obnoxious fondness for his university – you might spend at least a portion of your crap on the school out west.

Just saying “the school out west” indicates that a significant amount of crap is invested. It implies that even mentioning the name of that offending institution assaults your principles. But should it?

How this crap got started

Arkansas State wherever I go. 

How does any crap get started? Somebody starts talking shit and before long it’s hitting the fans. I can’t speak for all Arkansas State fans, but many of us take issue with the elite attitude of the school out west who often refer to us as “little brother.” The irony is, real big brothers are compelled (one way or another) to play with little brothers. The school out west and Arkansas State don’t have anything resembling a relationship.

Blame it on “The Policy,” the unwritten mandate that prevents the school out west from extending the hand of good  sportsmanship to any of its in-state “brethren.” That seems rather petty from an institution that touts itself a flagship university.

It’s not the Policy by itself that rankles, but the attitude that justifies it. The school out west would have you believe that they’re really doing us a big favor – by ignoring  UCA, Little Rock, UAPB and Arkansas State, the school out west is actually empowering Arkansans to be fans of all Arkansas teams. See? They’re sacrificing commonsense scheduling and natural geographic rivalries so you can cheer the Henderson State Reddies without feeling guilty about wearing your $20 “school out west” sweatshirt.

Also, there’s nothing in it for the school out west to play an in-state team (except honor and integrity, two qualities for which they have no use, apparently). Also, Oh my God, what if they lose? All that superiority talk would sound pretty lame, wouldn’t it?

Re-stirring the crap only makes the stank stinkier. We’ve been holding our noses for years. But is it time to let it go?

Argument #1: Arkansas State is doing well at doing it’s own thing

Doing our own thing has worked well in recent years.

This thinking is often framed as “Let’s just focus on us.” That’s not a bad approach. Red Wolves fans can control only so much. Athletic director Terry Mohajir says that Arkansas State’s goal is to become the “best G5 program in the nation.” That’s a lofty goal, and one that requires a concerted effort among everyone involved to achieve it.

Yet, no matter how focused we are on ourselves, what happens (or isn’t happening) out west – where the gravity of influence is heavy – has an affect of us. When the school out west flips our recruits, when the state media focuses 99% of coverage in Fayetteville, or when it refuses to acknowledge anyone but themselves, they’re thing tampers with our thing.

Ignoring them the way they ignore us does have poetry. It feels like the bigger thing to do. I’m not alway big enough.

Argument #2: We’re in two different conferences, so why bother?

If the SEC is the sun of the college athletics universe, the Sun Belt is Uranus. Bearing only a fraction of the SEC’s media coverage, endorsements and payouts, the Sun Belt stretches heroically meager resources and occasionally upsets Mississippi State. If the two programs reside at opposite ends of the galaxy, why should one acknowledge the other?

This is a crap argument, though. Georgia Tech of the ACC loathes Georgia of the SEC and nobody suggests that fans of one of those programs should be fans of both. Die hard Memphis Tiger fans aren’t interested in the well-coifed trials and tribulations of the Vanderbilt Commodores. Utah and Utah State aren’t expected to be chums.

But for some reason, Arkansas State Red Wolves fans are supposed to be sidekicks to the school out west. Because they’re rich. Because an influential Little Rock station proudly reports only school out west news. Because the only statewide newspaper also runs a school out west website.

Yeah, I still have crap to give.

Argument #3: Grousing is mean spirited and helps no one.

Our coverage is located above the fold sometimes.

Nobody likes a complainer’s complaining. It’s petty. It reeks of low self-esteem. It betrays jealousy and weakness. Arkansas State fans have groaned about the school out west ever since the latter refused to support the former’s move to become an accredited university (which actually was petty). And what has changed? Nothing. A stoppable force will never budge an immovable object. Place your emotion in supporting your team rather than waste precious energy lamenting life’s imbalances.

But this smacks of “know your role.” The school out west would love for Red Wolves fans to shut up and accept their lowly lot in life. My God, quit your bellyaching. When school out west athletic director Jeff Long lectures that his program needs support from the entire state, he’s directing that to you, loudmouthed Red Wolves fans. He knows that stilled tongues have never put change to motion.

Does the school out west deserve the crap we give?

The school out west has a snobby and elitist attitude aimed not just at Arkansas State, but to every institution of higher learning in the state – even to schools within their own system. They engage in unsportsmanlike policies specifically designed to maintain a lucrative monopoly. The example they set to their student athletes is “I’ve got mine, screw everyone else.”

So the simple answer is “no,” the school out west does not deserve my crap. As the years have gone by, and as our success has piled up, my concern with the school out west has diminished. I no longer engage in heated debates with Twitter trolls. I’ve mellowed and matured. By ignoring the rest of the state, the school out west is creating the division they pretend they are attempting to prevent. The joke’s on them.

Yet, I wrote this post. The crap remains warm.