This one won't be long today dear readers, but I think its important and I hope you will read it!
Like many die-hard Razorback fans, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the program that Coach Bobby Petrino has built in his four years at Arkansas. Seemingly, he has done it the right way, building an identity, having a plan, building depth from the ground up and then developing the talent available and taking it to a higher level. Because of that plan, hard work by the coaches and players, and the support of the fans, Arkansas enjoys one of its highest rankings ever and is now pointed to a game on Friday with SEC West Rival and Top Ranked LSU. The winner has a good chance of playing for a national championship. It feels good to just be able to say that out loud. PLAY for a national CHAMPIONSHIP. I can remember the minutes just after Arkansas beat Duke in 1994 for the Basketball National Championship. Elation and joy are two terms that come to mind.
Sunday, I was driving home from Memphis and listened to several different sports talk shows discussing the BCS Bowl picture and the messes that could possibly be created. Callers and hosts were arguing their points vehemently, talking about how "criminal" the system was and how its architects should be shot or hanged or worse! Really? It's football guys. Fans get so worked up over their teams and the perceived slights they have received. How this team deserves this and depriving the players of this opportunity was more unfair to them than anything imaginable.
I remembered that caller vividly when I got the news regarding Garrett Uekman and his untimely death. His being 19 and not living any longer is much more unfair than not playing in a BCS bowl game. I have attended a few more funerals this year than I have in the past. As we get older, friends and family age and become ill and pass. Its a fact of life. Without exception, the funerals I have attended have all shared a theme of the loved one going on to a better place, leaving their pain behind, or being in a much better state. The tragedy regarding Garett Uekman was that he wasn't suffering anything that we know of. His health was good, he was doing what he loved where he wanted to do it and was surrounded by a strong cast of friends. By every account I have read he was a good person, someone you would want your kids to be friends with. The tragedy to me would be living a life not being touched by people like Garrett Uekman. We come across people in our lives that have profound and positive and lasting effects on us. They take the shape of friends, teachers, pastors, bosses, love interests and family members. I would challenge each of us to take a few minutes every day, and especially Thursday on Thanksgiving, to recognize these people and let them know the difference they have made in our own lives. Tell them how important they are to you and that you are a better person for having them in your life. If we don't learn anything from Garrett Uekman except for the fact that none of us is promised anything past the next breath we take, then learn and live that.
As a follow up, I have read rumors and stories of Garrett's funeral being protested by a group that I refuse to recognize by naming them. This group has protested at other funerals, some less successfully than others. I can't for the life of me imagine the thought processes that would go through the head of a grown person that would approve of such behavior. I fully support and will fight for anyone's right of free speech. However, I was taught growing up that my rights stop where another person's start. And I will fight for their rights as well. The Uekman family has suffered a tragic loss and will have the support of friends, family, the Razorback nation as well as other college football fans. They should NOT have to suffer the foolishness of fools. And folks, these are FOOLS. I don't know when the funeral is, but it is my hope that the Arkansas Alumni Association puts a call out to every football player that has ever donned the uniform and invites them to stand as color guard at Garrett's funeral. I have seen the players walk through thousands of fans outside of stadiums and the looks of joy on their faces. I can only imagine trying to walk through a gauntlet of thousands of Razorbacks fans and players trying to prevent the disruption of such a solemn ceremony. I wouldn't want to do it! I hope the reports aren't true and that the protesters stay away from the funeral. He lived a life of example in his 19 years on the planet. Maybe they should follow his.....