Hog hoops hit the hardwood with football sidelined

Photo: Courtesy, ArkansasRazorbacks.com

It’s going to be an odd Thanksgiving weekend without Razorback football, but Covid-19 testing and contact tracing have put the Arkansas Razorbacks’ on the shelf for this coronavirus-infected holiday.

At the moment, the Hogs are still scheduled to play Alabama on Dec. 5, and one supposes the Missouri game, which was to be played this Saturday, will be played either Dec. 12 or Dec. 19, pending a decision by the SEC office.

With football off the table for the week, basketball takes center stage with the men’s and women’s Razorbacks opening each of their seasons Wednesday.

Mike Neighbors’ No. 14 women’s squad gets the hoops season started with an 11 a.m. Wednesday showdown with Oral Roberts at 11 a.m. in Bud Walton Arena.

Eric Musselman’s Hogs tip their season off several hours later at 6:30 p.m. also in Bud Walton Arena against Mississippi Valley State. Both games can be streamed on the SEC Network Plus or ESPN3 apps.

Neighbors’ Razorbacks squad has a busy week. On Friday they begin competition in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Alico Arena in Estero Fla. against Wake Forest at 10:30 a.m. Friday. On Saturday they face Florida Gulf Coast at 1:30 p.m., and they play Maryland at 4:30 p.m. Sunday. The three games can be streamed at Flohoops.com, but there is a fee involved.

The men’s squad is back in action at Walton Arena at 5 p.m. Saturday against North Texas. The game can be streamed on the SEC Network Plus.

Sports talk radio better than ever in Northwest Arkansas

An early morning run to the grocery store Tuesday had me stuck in the car during much of the 7 to 8 a.m. segment of the Morning RUSH sports talk show on 99.5 FM.

Like most sports talk shows that originate from the Fort Smith/Fayetteville market, the Razorbacks are the topic of the day, every day. Hosts Tye Richardson and Tommy Craft are often joined by Hawgs Illustrated publisher Clay Henry to commiserate about the Razorbacks.

I think Henry, a second-generation newspaper man before he founded Hawgs Illustrated in the early 1990s, would admit to being old school in the very best sense of the term, while Richardson, show host and program director for Pearson Broadcasting Inc., is a talented voice in the local broadcasting scene that sees the Razorbacks’ through a young man’s eyes. Craft, market manager for Pearson and a high school official during his down time, often plays referee between Henry and Richardson, whose opinions seem to grate on each other from time to time.

I tuned into the middle of Tuesday’s discussion concerning their opinions on Arkansas’ shot at playing No. 1 Alabama on Dec. 5, and I could feel the friction coming from my speakers as they offered opposing views. I might have seen a little bit of smoke like when someone takes after a piece of wood with an iron file.

Craft, somewhat caught in the middle, did a nice job of moderating the discussion, which by the way was fantastic radio. The disagreement was higher brow and a bit more respectful than your average championship wrestling promo, but every bit as entertaining for me.

The great thing is that it wasn’t contrived or fake, or at least it didn’t seem to be. If it was a put-on, Richardson and Henry both need to head to Hollywood.

Henry and Richardson see the Hogs through two very different sets of eyes and offer very sets of opinions that don’t always jive, and as a listener and Hog fan that makes for some entertaining and informative radio.

Their natural clash of chemistry makes for a give-and-take that’s compelling, challenging, and fun in a rough-and-tumble sort of way.

Running in the same 6-9 a.m. time slot on 92.1 FM The Ticket is The Red Zone with Josh Bertaccini, who also runs an entertaining and informative show. Bertaccini no doubt enjoys Arkansas, working in the market in two stints for more than a decade, but he is an East Coast guy, growing up in New Jersey and Philly.

That also gives him a somewhat unique viewpoint on the Razorbacks and the SEC. After living and working in the state for so long, he’s not an outsider, but I enjoy that he offers a bit different view and context than you’d get from a lifelong Arkie with his opinions and choices of guests. Bertaccini also plays the best bumper music for my money in the Northwest Arkansas Market. When the show breaks, I’m always eager to hear what song he comes back with.

I hear less radio in the afternoons, but if I’m in the car, Press Row with Grant Hall on 99.5 FM is an easy and informative listen. Hall has been a fixture on the radio in Northwest Arkansas for decades. I know I’ve listened to him on one show or the other since moving to Fayetteville as a freshman in college back in 1986. I especially enjoy when I catch former Razorback and Pittsburgh Steeler Steven Conley. His insight and analysis of Razorback football and Hog sports in general is always on point.

Derek Ruscin and Zach Arns are somewhat of a palate cleanser from 3-7 p.m.on 99.5. If you’re looking for an ordinary nuts-and-bolts sports talk show, that’s not what Ruscin and Zach offer. Their show is an acquired taste somewhat in the vein of “Late Night with David Letterman” on NBC in the 1980s. It’s sports talk, but with more snark, humor, and less of a filter than anywhere else on the local radio dial.