LITTLE ROCK — This is a column of conflict — sorrow vs. the anticipation of a game.

LITTLE ROCK — This is a column of conflict — sorrow vs. the anticipation of a game.

Writing strictly about football trivializes the sudden death of a 19-year-old. I did not know Garrett Uekman; I do know what it’s like to have a son 180 miles away in college, worrying every time the phone rings, knowing the frailty of life but hoping for what we perceive to be the proper order of children outliving their parents.

Until a friend called Sunday with word about Uekman, confirmation of Arkansas being No. 3 in the BCS standings seemed awfully important. Before the phone rang, the column was taking shape, reviewing:

• LSU alone in a withering spotlight that was too bright for Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oklahoma, Stanford, and so many others.

• How everything had fallen in place for an Arkansas team that simply took care of business week after week, undeterred by the nuances of the BCS standings.

• The national championship scenarios for Arkansas, all anchored in a victory over LSU in Baton Rouge.

A life-long resident of Arkansas and fortunate to get paid to watch sporting events that others pay to see, there is a sense of betrayal attached to even talking about the football game at 1:30 p.m. on Friday. Around the newsroom, the normal Monday conversation about the Razorbacks — the brief post-game review and the in-depth preview — was more subdued than usual.

But, try as we might, there is no getting around the fact that this is the biggest game in the history of Razorback football since No. 1 vs. No. 2 on Dec. 6, 1969.

Like that Arkansas-Texas game in Fayetteville, the stakes are in focus because this is the regular-season finale.

The parents of Arkansas’ redshirt freshman tight end, Danny and Michelle Uekman of Little Rock, said in a statement that their son “was living his dream of … playing football for the Razorbacks.”

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long eased my conscience some when he said: “Certainly the feelings of Garrett’s family (are) that football and the University of Arkansas and the Razorbacks were very important to him. And that he would want us to continue to compete.”

Despite the tragedy, the Razorbacks will compete; that is one of the givens with a Bobby Petrino-coached team.

But, Petrino has the unenviable task of figuring out a way to emphasize the particulars of a game plan for LSU while paying proper respect to Uekman. Neither will be slighted; Petrino will make certain of that.

He also will do his best to stick to the Razorbacks’ weekly schedule, already altered because of a game on Friday instead of Saturday. Normalcy is impossible.

For instance, Petrino and a couple of hand-picked players are available each Monday afternoon for a news conference. Before noon Monday, the UA sports information office announced that there would be no media availability with the team and that such availability for the rest of the week would be announced each day.

Football and the unexpected death of a young person are not equal on any level. In this case, they are two interlocking and integral parts of the lives of dozens of young athletes.

Once the game begins, I expect the players to escape the sobering facts of real life and immerse themselves in the competition with an extremely talented opponent. For all involved, the respite will last a little more than three hours.

Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is