I love Arkansas State, no matter how many times the Red Wolves break my heart.

Your life would be easier – much easier – if you simply gave up on the Red Wolves and transferred your fandom to the athletic program located in Northwest Arkansas. You’d likely be invited to attend fancier tailgates and more lavish kickoff parties. You’d be able to participate in sports discussions on a national level. You’d avoid having to explain and justify your Red Wolves fandom to the multitude of Arkansans who consider the School Out West to be the state’s sole sporting representative. Life would be easier.

If I don’t speak for you, I certainly speak for myself. As a small business owner in Arkansas, I can’t afford two things: 1) a political opinion, and 2) a rooting interest that isn’t in Fayetteville. It would be a wise business move to not only adorn my body with pig-themed merchandise on the weekend, it would behoove me to cease covering the Red Wolves entirely and start posting about the 17th richest sports program in the nation. Hell, plenty of Arkansas State alums have done it. Why not me?

Because I love this fucked up University. It took me in when nobody else wanted me. It expanded my worldview. I entered an ignorant hillbilly and graduated with the tools that allowed me to view others objectively and to discuss complex topics with a at least a beginner’s level of authority.

Arkansas State also taught me that underdogs need champions. As northwest Arkansas grows in influence and power, we leave an Arkansas Delta starving for supporters. It takes some people by surprise when I inform them that Jonesboro is the cultural, retail, finance, health and academic center of northeast Arkansas. But that’s the truth. And the city’s growth has been impressive in recent decades. Your support of Arkansas State made it possible.

I’m not saying that our support should be given blindly or unconditionally. We’re not communists! Arkansas State has an obligation to earn our allegiance (earned allegiance is a concept that the school out West doesn’t seem to understand). If Arkansas State wants our support on a sporting level, it should work harder to provide a reasonable product. At the time of this writing, it’s quite possible that the Red Wolves will finish last in the Sun Belt for football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and baseball. That’s unacceptable.

But we have an obligation, too: me and you. Arkansas State gave us a unique community that we call our own. Together, we’ve worked too hard to abandon it. We’re too vested in our University – too emotionally dependent on its success. And damnit, the University has succeeded. If you attended ASU in 2000, you would hardly recognize the campus today. It has transformed. What was once a regional, pass-through university is now a destination university that offers a full measure of sports, greek life, outside pursuits and fascinating research opportunities.

Last month, I posted an article titled The Red Wolves Aren’t Good at Anything, which was cruelly unfair to all aspects for which Arkansas State currently excels. The frustration was justified. The broad brush with which it was applied was not. Arkansas State is a beacon for reason and knowledge in Northeast Arkansas – a region for which knowledge and reason aren’t always in full supply. If you can’t bring yourself to support the school’s basketball team, put that support in its academics. It will be put to good use.

But don’t give up on Arkansas State Athletics. A limping giant only needs time before he’s grinding bones for bread again. We’ll see the golden days return. Hell, they’re already here, if you look in more than one or two places.

IMAGE: I cobbled that work of sheer art together from images I mostly own but not all