I have been an Arkansas Razorback baseball fan since I was a senior in high school. I guess I can say that as a Hog fan, I hitched my wagon to quite the rising star, as the prominence of the program and the atmosphere at Baum Stadium has gone from an afterthought to the “place to be” over the last two decades.
My old buddy Gary Campbell and I have followed them to regular season games in Knoxville, Tennessee. We made a trip to Tallahassee in 2009 to watch Andrew Darr’s double in the bottom of the ninth inning cap a Super Regional tournament in two games. We drove all night to get home and somewhere in Florida almost ran out of gas outside of a state prison due to me misjudging the longevity of my car’s fuel tank when the yellow light came on.
I attended and broadcast from Omaha at the 2004 College World Series and that is when I was hooked. By 2009 and 2012 I had my own sports radio stations and thanks to a friend who is high up in the NCAA had a spot on radio row next to ESPN at those particular College World Series runs in Omaha. I missed out on 2015 when a family member was ill, but Lord knows I watched every pitch from a hospital room in Galveston.
One of the constants in most all of those trips? Hognoxious.
You may know him after Sportscenter last night as the “Arkansas Pointy Guy” as he was affectionately dubbed by the anchors. Those of us who have been on the inside track of Razorback sports know him as Bobby Smittle, an insurance agent who probably loves Arkansas baseball as much or more than anyone I know.
Bobby has had the good fortune for years of having seats above the Arkansas dugout, and he hasn’t wasted them. Whether a game is on television or not, he can be seen waving that Arkansas flag. If an opposing coach is feeling a little too entitled, Bobby apparently owns one of the largest inflatable pacifiers you have ever seen. If Arkansas is poised for a sweep that day, you better believe he will have brooms in his possession. He has sung the National Anthem at games, and even served the University as an usher for many years. When I started Fayetteville’s sports radio station “The Hog 105.3” in 2008, he was one of the first people we had deliver a daily segment to us.
Bobby is another one that we have shared late-night road trips with. “Hognoxious” and I once watched an Eminem wannabe in a McDonalds in Shawnee, Oklahoma try to convince some young ladies that he was an undercover cop because he drove an old Crown Victoria. Unfortunately for the guy we dubbed “Shadizzle”, he didn’t realize the real officers of the law were standing right behind him. (These are just SOME of the stories you collect when you follow Razorback baseball on the road).
Along with our good friend Mike Cormack of Van Buren, Bobby Smittle is by far the most dedicated fan I know.
Sunday, he got a lot of airtime with some of his antics, which most all of them come from a good place. But if an umpire draws his ire, Bobby isn’t afraid to make his case. Rather than yell the obscenities that will get you thrown out of a place, he will simply scowl and point.
This was duly noted by the television sportscasters, who showed him in a split screen with the home plate umpire. It was at that moment that the social media exploded. Some people loved it. Others thought he was drunk. Some thought he was an obnoxious fan. A regular complainant from Maumelle on my Facebook feed called him a “jackass”.
But as Bobby told me late last night, as the umpire’s opinions of pitcher Kasey Murphy’s performance kept getting harsher, he wanted to find a way to let people know what he thought the game’s biggest problem was.
“Two factors in this equation, and a season of work doesn’t make me think Murphy suddenly can’t pitch.” Smittle explained. “I just wanted to make sure people understood what the problem with the game was. He (the umpire) was biased in his incompetence.”
There are a lot of “Johnny-come-lately” fans who suddenly want to be a part of things when it really gets good. But there are those of us who have invested the time, effort, mileage, airfare money, hotel rooms, and high priced tickets at places across the country to watch these kids play. We’ve gotten to know these players and their families, and have made lifelong friendships through Razorback baseball that we will carry until we die. For fans like me, and those who might take our passion a step further like Bobby, it gets personal when we are blatantly getting hosed. Just ask anyone who sits in Section 103 whether umpire Perry Costello will ever be welcomed in their home.
Some of us aren’t afraid to show it.
You may be a die-hard fan. But, if you don’t understand Hognoxious, you don’t understand the pure passion there is out there for Razorback baseball.
Criticism notwithstanding, the diehards like Bobby and me will see you tonight in Fayetteville.
Grant Merrill is the owner and publisher of InsideFortSmith.Com