State Of The Hogs

For many, the television is the only link to Arkansas athletics. They can't afford the current ticket prices, or they live too far away. And for many others, health keeps them from making any trips to Fayetteville.

Years ago, when I was a teenager, I can remember visiting with my grandmother about the Razorbacks. She followed football a little, but what she really enjoyed was basketball. She loved seeing the faces of the players. She also said basketball was easier to follow than football. After all, she told me, who could ever understand illegal procedure?

I was visiting with another elderly lady the other day and she told me she much preferred basketball over football and cited some of the same reasons my grandmother listed. She watches every TV game and was most interested in hearing about who might be her new voice alongside Paul Eells. When I told her about the pending tryout for Blake Eddins, she was overjoyed.

"That's one of my favorite all-time players," she said. "So cute. Nice curly hair. I always wanted to run my fingers through those cute curly locks."

Sorry, Blake, but there are probably other little old ladies out there who thought the same thing. Perhaps some weren't so old, either. And, yes, for those still interested in Blake, he's still single.

Eddins will be on the TV broadcast Saturday when the Hogs play host to Prairie View A&M. He is hopeful the Arkansas Razorback Sports Network will use him on a few other games this year now that it is obvious that Joe Kleine is gone and Jimmy Dykes has too many gigs with ESPN, ABC and Raycom to do many UA games.

I don't know for sure how Eddins will do in his new job, but I suspect he'll be outstanding. Oh, he might not be outstanding right out of the gate, but he'll get there if given the chance. He's got the charm, wit and ability to deliver the one-liner in the short, quick punch required for basketball television broadcasts. And, unlike Kleine, he has a great voice for that medium, deep and strong.

In my view, Eddins was among the best quotes among recent UA athletes. He loved to entertain writers, but also knew his place. He once told me after a game, "Why don't you talk to someone else tonight? I'm not playing well enough right now for anyone to be talking to me."

Eddins wasn't trying to be funny that night. He was telling the truth. He didn't want to be viewed as the quote machine by teammates, especially when he wasn't playing enough or well enough to be in the newspaper otherwise.

I remember the time when SportsRap guys Chuck Barrett, Dudley Dawson and I coached in the Red-White game against the talent (that's a loose description) from DriveTime Sports. For two years, we outdrafted and outcoached Randy Rainwater and his on-air buddies. It really wasn't much of a challenge and Stan Heath discontinued that format after taking over for Nolan Richardson.

The first year, we had Eddins on our team and he was a hoot. The next year, Eddins was drafted by Rainwater much higher than we had him rated. After the draft was announced, Eddins greeted us with a mock pout and then warned that our team was going down.

When pressed for the reasons his team was better, Eddins, knowing he couldn't cite his presence, pointed to our team and said, "Too many vampires. When the lights come on, they'll disappear."

Some of "our" players thought that was funny. Some did not and used it as motivation, I was told. Myself, I thought it was hilarious.

Presumably, Eddins won't refer to any of Heath's current players as vampires on Saturday. I'm guessing that he'll play it pretty close to the vest for at least a few games. I hope he gets to do enough games for his true wit to blossom. He should be entertaining and fun.

Eddins should be able to offer an interesting perspective. He's one of the few players who can say he played for both Richardson and Heath. He gnashed his teeth publicly when Richardson was terminated and was also highly complimentary of the things he saw happening in the early days of the Heath era.

Carter Clark, another ex-Razorback, loves to tell stories on and about Eddins, his former roommate. They still play practical jokes on each other.

Clark tried to get me to phone Eddins recently under the pretense that I was looking for a subject for our Where Are they Now features in Hawgs Illustrated. Clark wanted me to let Eddins think I wanted to interview him, then pull the rug out from under him by asking if he could help me locate Brandon Dean.

I didn't have the heart to do that to Blake. After all, he now is a fellow Stephens employee having gone to work for our parent company in Little Rock. You never know when he might one day be one of my bosses.

That won't stop Clark from telling stories on Eddins, or messing with his buddy.

One of the best ones I've heard Clark tell on Eddins concerned the many times Richardson referred to Eddins as Ed Blakins. Hopefully, Eells will never call him Ed. But if he does, Blake is smart enough to just roll with it, as he did when he played for Richardson. As I said, he's witty, but he's smart enough to know it's okay for a little old lady to run her fingers through his curly locks.

CLAY HENRY IS THE PUBLISHER OF HAWGS ILLUSTRATED, A STEPHENS MEDIA GROUP PUBLICATION. HIS COLUMN APPEARS EACH FRIDAY. E-MAIL: CLAY@NWAONLINE.NET.

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