Last Modified: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 11:18 AM
It was a nice try. A noble effort. Nobody’s fault, really, that it never quite worked out. Both sides gave it their best shot.
But Arkansas and LSU never really managed to despise each other enough to be full-blown, 365-day-a-year blood rivals.
Even as obnoxious as LSU fans can get, even as annoying as hog calls in sub-freezing weather can be on frozen ears, the Razorbacks and Tigers never really learned to obsess over each other.
So with Friday’s game at Tiger Stadium, both schools, with the blessings of the SEC, will officially end the grand, 21-year experiment to force-feed LSU-Arkansas as suitable rivals.
They can bury a sword that was never really used in extreme anger or prejudice.
Maybe as part of LSU’s Senior Day send-off, the Tigers can officially thank Arkansas for playing and bid adieu to the rivalry that never really was.
Oh, the Razorbacks aren’t going anywhere.
LSU and Arkansas will still play every year. They will still be in the SEC West, after all. There will probably be some great games to come. There have been a few in the past. They just won’t play to end the regular season, as most good rivals tend to do. They won’t have to pretend to hate each other just for appearances.
They won’t play each other on Black Friday which, in truth, is probably the biggest thing — oddity, really — the rivalry was ever known for.
Those games in Little Rock, in particular, were mostly memorable for the traffic jams, not surprising since the biggest mall in Arkansas stands guard near War Memorial Stadium (or at least always did from my route) on the busiest shopping day of the year.
But it never really gained much traction as a bona fide rivalry game.
So now LSU has been informed by the scheduling division of the SEC office that, henceforth, it’s most hated rival will be Texas A&M.
Sounds doable. There’s some old sort-of tradition there. And there’s the Houston battleground, where lots of alumni from both tend to settle and work together.
Next season it will actually be played on Thanksgiving Day, as you’ve probably heard, although that’s not set in stone beyond next year.
The Aggies have a long (now gone) tradition of playing (Texas) on Turkey Day, but it hasn’t been decided when the games will be when played in Baton Rouge. LSU evidently isn’t as excited about holiday football as the Aggies are, at least at home.
My guess is that it will be on Thanksgiving when in College Station and on Friday or Saturday when in Baton Rouge.
But there’s your new LSU rival, all dressed up in maroon.
Good luck on that one, too.
It’s probably as doomed as was the awkward arrangement with Arkansas.
It probably won’t be A&M’s fault anymore than it was Arkansas’ fault.
The truth is, LSU just doesn’t do long-term rivals very well.
LSU-Arkansas was, at best, an “arranged marriage when Arkansas entered the SEC in 1992 and, anyway, the Tigers have always had a wandering eye when it comes to who they hate the most.
When LSU is good, as they’ve been for a sustained period now, it tends to be whoever is the biggest challenge, mostly Alabama —sometimes Auburn —lately always Alabama and Nick Saban all the time.
But Alabama will always have Auburn first in its thoughts and Auburn will obsess over the Tide.
For that matter, Arkansas always seemed to get more excited on the rare occasions Texas showed up on its schedule, a throwback to its Southwest Conference roots.
Playing LSU-Arkansas at the end of the season only meant that, particularly in the early years, often as not one of the schools would have an interim or at least lame-duck coach.
Only once, 2002, did they have a winner-take-all game to advance to the SEC title game.
For LSU bitterness, there was the promising 2007 game when the Razorbacks had apparently derailed the Tigers’ national championship hopes with a triple-overtime upset in Tiger Stadium. But somehow a two-loss LSU team went ahead and won the national championship anyway, and all was forgiven.
Arkansas seemed to invent the “Wildcat” offense just for LSU, and the only thing sillier than watching LSU try to defend it was later watching the Tigers own feeble attempts at running it themselves.
Of course, for my money, whatever chance it had become a rivalry died when some fool (from Arkansas, you’ll be relieved to know) decided that what this game really needed was a trophy, what would really flame the competitive fires would be “The Boot.”
The thing is such a silly 24-carat, gold-plated monstrosity, that when LSU won the first “Battle for the Boot” in 1996, the Tigers didn’t even bother to tote it home from Little Rock.
Some LSU fan threw it in the back of his pickup truck, and it was months before he tired of it cluttering up his living room and brought it to the LSU athletic department, which hadn’t exactly put out an all-points bulletin for it.
So presumably The Boot will survive the death of a blood rivalry.
You can’t kill The Boot, evidently.
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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org