State of the Hogs: Great Trip

Just when you think your job can't get any better, someone wants you to speak to a group of Razorback fans in Chicago -- and throws in a day at Wrigley Field as incentive. With apologies in advance, here is how publisher Clay Henry spent his week.

CHICAGO -- There is a good friend, actually my dentist, in Tulsa that sometimes blames me for the occupation his son picked during a trip I made with his family to cover the Oklahoma-Texas football game in Dallas.

I sat in the first row of the press box, near the 50-yard line. They sat in the tickets purchased by his father (and his son's grandfather) just a few rows underneath the press box. Their seats were as fine as any in the Cotton Bowl. No doubt, grandpa was/is a top OU contributor.

I'll never forget seeing my buddies' son staring back at me from the stands everytime I looked at their seats. Never mind that a great game was happening if he looked towards the field.

That night at dinner, the youngster had questions for me. Is it true the newspaper paid me to go to the game? Yep. Is it true they even pay for your plane ticket? Yep. Is it true you always get a great seat in the press box? Yes, again. And, is it true that they feed you in the press box during every game? Right, again.

That sealed it. At age 10, it was decided he would be a sports journalist. No doubt, it is the best job in America.

And, while his older brother is now a medical doctor, this youngster is now a full fledged member of the media, a TV cameraman for the NBC affiliate in Tulsa. This after winning state championships in football at Jenks and despite scoring the kind of marks in both high school and college to gain entrance to medical school.

I'm reminded by some that I do have a fun job. I know that and appreciate that there are no days that I punch a time clock to do something mundane or distateful. It's not life or death stuff. It's sport and by it's very nature is entertainment.

Those outside the sports department at a newspaper refer to those of covering games as the "toys and games department." I don't deny them the right to use that description. It is what we are.

Usually, I take all of that for granted and try to remind my wife the school teacher that I work long, hard hours at my job. She generally cuts me off before I can get too far into a poorly conceived rant.

Let me tell you, after taking care of my duty this week in Chicago to speak at an Arkansas Alumni Association dinner, there will be no rants -- even half-delivered rants -- for a long time.

Thank you, Don Eldread. Don, AKA Comiskey Pork on our premium board, has been asking for quite some time that I come to his hometown to visit with his club members about the Hogs. The reward, he promised, would be seats at Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs and as many fine meals as I could consume in two or three days.

All of that was delivered and more the past three days. I've handled hundreds of speaking engagements during the 15 years of Hawgs Illustrated and many have been great trips.

There was the San Francisco trip for my wife and I to talk the Bay Area alumni group about four years ago.

The meeting and my talk were delivered in a pavilion at a Sonoma vineyard. The meal -- fine, thick steaks -- were picked out by my host at an area grocery store and were cooked over a fire pit in the vineyards. The day also doubled as a wine tasting party for club members. I doubt anyone remembers my talk, but they all left in a good mood.

That was a good meal, one of the best I've had at any Razorback Club/Alumni Association Chapter function.

But for pure eating pleasure, nothing could top the fare served up at the Chicago dinner. Eldread, as is his nature, took our club meeting to a classy place near his home in Southport, a nice area in Chicago not too far from Wrigley Field.

You had the option of three wonderful entrees and I picked the New York strip steak. There were also other courses, including creme brulee to end the dinner.

Of course, I had to entertain with a talk on the Hogs, followed by the usual Q&A session with the expected question on the probable date for Frank Broyles' retirement. (He won't retire; he'll be carried out of his office when he can no longer breathe.)

Per the usual, we capped the night by calling the Hogs in the presence of a horrified chef. There was a thin curtain separating us from the other restaurant guests and they were also horrified at our cheers.

I hate to tell you that the trip continued with a game at Wrigley Field the next day. The Cubs had not won at home in eight days and when they rallied in the bottom of the eighth to end that streak, I thought the Cub fans around me were going to hold me hostage as their good luck charm.

There is nothing like Wrigley. The Cubs are again horrible, but there was another sellout of 39,000-plus that day and they celebrated as if they had won the World Series.

Most around us were well lubricated with the assorted beers on sale throughout the community of Wrigleyville before the game. I chose to leave them alone. I feared for my safety. Our third-row seats near the Cub dugot were not fronted by a protective screen. I could imagine a foul ball from just a few feet away (there is hardly any foul territory at Wrigley) taking off my head. I wanted to be sharp throughout the day.

I've made it back to real work -- my wife will not allow me to pretend that this trip to Chicago was work -- after battling three gate changes Thursday afternoon at O'Hare International Airport.

I will try to remind myself for at least a few days that I have the best job in the world and that covering football and basketball games is not work at all.

And, yes, they pay me to do this.

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