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Taking offense and seeing lots of it 




Gunner DeLay, local lawyer and frequent politician, strolled into the Fort Smith Athletic Club where I sat watching the live telecast of Patrick Fitzgerald’s news conference.

From the clubhouse television screen, the no-nonsense special counsel from Chicago was explaining the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. Scooter Libby was charged with lying to a grand jury to cover up what he hadn’t done wrong.

DeLay, a Republican candidate for attorney general, said he hears that Little Rock pundits merely sit around these days reading Internet blogs. I had to correct him. Sometimes one of them drives to Fort Smith to play tennis doubles on a gorgeous Friday afternoon with a Republican candidate for attorney general. Then he takes in the big high school football tilt between the local Northside Grizzlies and that once-in-a-lifetime bunch from up at Springdale.

I’d known Libby would get indicted. I’d known Harriet Miers wouldn’t make it. What I didn’t know was whether Springdale’s quarterback was all that great. The personable and mercurial Gunner had prepared a packet. Its contents would reveal, he said, that I had been wrong a few days before in writing that he was a flame-thrower and back-bencher in his days as a state senator. (Flame-throwing and back-benching denote a legislator who makes outsider noise but is not responsible or effective.)

My context had been that his disavowal of utility contributions for his attorney general’s campaign was rhetoric made hollow by the reality that he wasn’t going to get any. My point had been that the state business establishment eschewed him on account of his being a flame-thrower and back-bencher. In the packet was a column of mine a few years ago saying that Gunner hadn’t been the flame-thrower and back-bencher in the Senate that many had expected him to be.

That’s not fair. I would appreciate it if all of you would stop saving these columns. Read them, line the bird cage, then wake up with me tomorrow in our brand new world. Advantage Gunner.

I could always get back to deuce by citing his flame-throwing exploitation of the immigration issue in his failed race for Congress in 2001 when John Boozman of Wal-Mart bested him in a runoff. DeLay was expecting Boozman to join him that evening for the big game. Bygones must be treated as bygones. Politicians usually aren’t all that serious about what they say during campaigns.

For the record: DeLay is right to declare utility contributions inappropriate for candidates for an office that intervenes in behalf of ratepayer protection in utility regulatory matters at the state Public Service Commission.

Now, about this Springdale football team, which won its ninth straight game via a mercy rule whereby it gets so far ahead that officials keep the clock running to prevent the young men on the other team from experiencing unspeakable humiliation: I’ve never seen anything like it. Well, yes I have. I watched USC against Arkansas.

Mitch Mustain, the 17-year-old quarterback to whom next year’s Razorback starting job seems already to have been bequeathed, is only the third most impressive thing. The second most impressive is a speedy receiver named Damien Williams. The Bulldogs have this play whereby they throw to him behind a large lineman who lines up wide and creates a little space, and Williams commences darting and jitter-bugging horizontally looking for vertical opening. It’s the most electric thing I’ve seen in the open field since Reggie Bush encountered an Arkansas defensive back.

The most impressive thing of all is the no-huddle, pass-happy scheme of the 40-year-old coach, Gus Malzahn. High school defenders are simply overpowered, overwhelmed and outclassed. I wouldn’t mind seeing what LSU, Auburn, Alabama and Georgia could do against it, especially as enhanced by the frightful prospect of an occasional hand-off to Darren McFadden. That might make me a Razorback fan again. But don’t quote me on that, or dare save this column.


























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