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The basketball Razorbacks have been a disappointment, but there's March madness in the air, nonetheless. The Observer found last Sunday that the men's and women's finals of the Division II Gulf South Conference were being televised from Southaven, Miss., and that Arkansas Tech was playing in both games. Thrillers they were, too. First, an excited Observer watched the Golden Suns defeat Delta State in double overtime. Then, the Wonder Boys beat the University of Alabama at Huntsville in a game that came down to a last desperate shot by UAH that was blocked by the W-Boys. The Observer's cheers covered up the noise being made outside by spectators watching short-pantsed plodders clogging the streets of Little Rock. Why don't those people get a life, The Observer wonders.
Both Suns and 'Boys now move on to the national Division II playoffs. The Observer plans to be watching, the Tech fight song ringing in his ears:
“We're the sons and daughters of Tech, Don't mess with us by heck,
“We're wondrous and sunny, We've plenty of money,
“And we'll leave you looking a wreck.”
The Observer has special powers, such as the ability to be in two places at once. So count us among the short-pantsed who plod-ded around Little Rock on a refreshingly brisk Sunday morning.
Not the most fit of the group, we signed up for the half-marathon instead of the whole shebang. Much to our surprise though, dragging our body around town for 13 miles was much easier than we had imagined. A lot of that is owed, we think, to the volunteers and spectators.
Volunteers, civic organizations and, yes, even politicians manned rest-stops along the way, handing out Gatorade and water. Throngs of people gathered along the course to cheer on runners they knew, and even ones they didn't.
As we came down the home stretch, straining for that last bit of energy to carry us through, and finding not much was left, we took comfort in the cheers of complete strangers, thinking that if we only had their energy and commitment, those last two miles would have been much easier.
The Observer had the occasion last week to welcome home a long-time friend and former college roommate from a recent, and hopefully final, tour of Afghanistan. It was interesting to hear his take on the war, the people and culture of Afghanistan and the efforts of the U.S. military to establish some form of control and order in the region.
For someone who spent the better part of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in college, grad school and working for a weekly newspaper, our first question was simply, “What's it like over there?”
“Well, try to imagine what it would have been like during Old Testament times,” our old buddy said. “It's like that, just add the internal combustion engine, AK-47s and cell phones.”
He always did have a way with words.
We talked about a lot of things that night: what it was like to be in the army, the use of military force, the difficulty in understanding other cultures, some of the horrible things he witnessed and how he never wants to witness them again.
He was open and honest, and, as always, up for a good talk. But this little chat didn't exactly take place in the good old days, back in college when the main topic of conversation was the cute girl who sat in the back of the class or who was going to pick up the beer this weekend. We realized we were grown-up now and this was what real life was like.
Finally, we asked him the one question that probably should have been asked in the first place.
“Do you mind talking about those things?” we asked. “The bullets, the confusion, the death, that nervousness in the pit of yours stomach?”
“Well,” he said, “I imagine it's kind of like talking with someone who's been through a really trying, personal situation, like an abortion. They might talk about it with you, but it would probably be uncomfortable and more than likely, they wouldn't enjoy it that much. That's kind of the way I feel about it.”
We both sat there for a second. The room had gone quiet. We took a sip from our whiskey glasses, nodded, and started talking about the stupid stuff we did when we were in college.
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