Woe Be A Missouri Fan

Tigers football and grief go hand-in-hand

Nov. 8, 2007

College Football Preview: Week 11

> The Red Zone  |  Tape It Up  |  Strike The Pose  |  Breaking The Code
> B.J.: Heisman Hosses  |  Amsinger: Weekly Picks  |  Sorenson: 10 Qs  |   Braff: Ducks Should Be No. 2
> Trev: Pac-10 No Disappointment  |  National Title Matchups   |  Palm: Jockeying For Other BCS Bowls
> Hart: Woe Is A Missouri Fan  |  Roland: BC Better Beware of Turtle  |  Blackburn: Fiery Perspective
> Caparell: Soft Schedule Could Have Hawai'i BCS Bound  |  Crystal Ball: Weekend Predictions

By Tom Hart

Special to CSTV.com



Tom Hart calls football play-by-play for CSTV and is a contributor to CSTV.com.
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"Morning folks, park's closed, moose out front shoulda told ya."


When John Candy's character greeted the Griswold family with that line, what did you expect Clark would do? Turn around? Forget about Wally World? No, he had been through too much on that journey. He needed to get through those gates.


As a Missouri fan, I feel the same way. I'm not about to point a pellet gun at a security guard, but I am desperate. We've been through more heartbreaking losses than any other program. Program defining wins were thwarted by fifth downs, a kicked ball, and Tyus Edney. These losses, among many, many others, have built a unique fan base. 




Determined, tough, and resilient, Missouri fans have taken sports' best shots and bounced back time and again. But while waiting for that next win, it's only natural to fear the next loss.


That's why Tiger fans have been greeting each other this week with "That's the kind of game we used to lose." And it's true. 


So while I wanted to write this piece on the eve of the Kansas game at Arrowhead, or the Big 12 Championship game, I just couldn't wait. Because carrying around all of those losses over the years tells me not to get too excited.


I've witnessed too many Tiger losses first hand. I'm hoping it builds character, like the kind possessed by those crusty old New Englanders who waited forever for the Red Sox to win. But I'm not holding my breath.


The difference between Missouri and other major college programs is that the Tigers have a series of program-defining losses, while others have major wins. So while Kentucky fans lament Christian Laettner, they also have a few other wins to fall back on. Tennessee fans are still mad Peyton Manning didn't win the Heisman, but Tee Martin won a national title. Even the Cubs have won a World Series.


For a fan base hoping to be involved in close games after a series of blowouts, Oct. 6, 1990 was a good test. Bob Stull brought a crazy new offense to the Big 8. The run and shoot put a ton of points on the board. Granted, it also kept an over-matched defense on the field for an inordinate amount of time, but it was FUN. Occasionally, they even won games.


I was in the south end zone at Faurot Field with a group of high school buddies. Just like the Big 8 chain gang, we weren't exactly keeping track of the downs. So when Charles Johnson crawled toward the goal line on 5th down, we assumed the game was over. So much so that a kind police officer had to coax one of my buddies down from the goal post. The hard part was telling the kid Colorado had won. 


In my conversations with Stull over the years we've discussed Mizzou, Columbia, Kent Keifer's spiked hair and the phenomenal coaching staff he had assembled (Andy Reid, Dirk Koetter, Marty Mornhinweg, to name a few). But I just don't have the stones to ask him about the 5th down. I remember at the time he said he didn't want to call a timeout because the defense had momentum, and he wasn't sure if they would take the extra down away from the Buffs. I don't want to know if he knew.


This was a tough loss to take as a fan, but for the players, it was worse. Obviously devastated, the heartbroken Tigers followed that with a 69-21 loss at Nebraska. The Stull era never recovered, either. That staff lost 10 games by 40 points while in Columbia, but the 5th down game would be the most devastating.


March 19, 1995.  It doesn't seem like that long ago, but at the time it was tough to get sports scores in the middle of a 12-hour drive to spring break. No sports talk or satellite radio. No Blackberry's or Treos. The only option for updates of the NCAA Tournament was the CBS affiliate playing in Applebee's in the middle of Alabama. Our hope was that would they would have the Missouri-UCLA game on. No chance. What we got was a quick cut-in showing a mad dash layup and 7-footers celebrating in gold warm-ups. We had to wait 30 minutes for the postgame report to learn the 7-footers weren't the Haley brothers and the gold warm-ups belonged to UCLA. Edney happens. Losing hurts. 


Nov. 8, 1997, Missouri vs. Nebraska. The atmosphere in the old stadium at the corner of Providence and Stadium Boulevard was electric. I imagined this was what it was like when Notre Dame came to town in 1984 and sold out the place. I couldn't get a ticket in '84, so playing catch in the parking lot would have to do.


Early in the first quarter, the mighty 'Huskers were forced to take a time out and the crowd went nuts. I thought it odd that the fans were under the impression that one timeout may be the difference in this game. Little did I know. With time running out, in that same damn north end zone that Colorado snuck into, the Huskers converted a kicked ball into a touchdown to force overtime en route to a win and Tom Osborne's last national title.


You probably already know about those three games. They've each been replayed time and again, and have made their way onto the three opponents' national championship videos. It's one thing to watch a replay or read about it; it was another to be there.


Just like the Griswolds, we all have a Family Truckster somewhere in our past. Road trips with friends or family are supposed to be fun, but they turn into a lesson of survival. Especially if you were traveling to watch the old Missouri football teams.


Sept. 18, 1993. The ultimate pigskin weekend. Forty co-eds piled into a yellow dog school bus on a Thursday afternoon for a weekend road trip to watch some college football in College Station, Texas. Thanks to the formation of the Big 12, this conference road swing would cover 18 hours each way. Long enough to get to know the girl across the aisle, then wish you hadn't. 73-0 Aggies.


Sept. 10, 1994.  It's a four-and-a-half hour drive from Columbia to Urbana-Champaign. A football game lasts three and a half hours. Cam's and C.O.'s were fun. The game wasn't. 42-0 Illini.


Aug. 31, 1996. Like any trip to Austin, Texas, Sixth Street was the highlight. Longhorns 40, Tigers 10. Three football road trips, combined score: 155-10. I was beginning to think this whole Missouri football thing was my fault.


I wasn't the only one that watched Missouri lose those games. If you went to school with Sheryl Crow, you witnessed a 3-7 season and the firing of Warren Powers. If you were on campus at the same time as Sam Walton, you saw a team finish 3-6 under Don Faurot. Brad Pitt was there for the Woody Woodenhofer era, so there you go.


There hasn't been a season like this since Ken Lay was on campus (the 1960 Tigers finished 11-0 and ranked fifth in the AP, but only after Kansas was forced to forfeit a 23-7 win).


I now live 700 miles away from Columbia and the Tigers are a Top 10 team. They have an outside chance at a national championship berth. A BCS game (Orange Bowl anyone?) is a real possibility. These are times true Missouri fans just can't fathom. While I'm afraid a new generation of fans may grow up without the pain, I'm more scared this house of cards will come crashing down. It's human nature, I suppose.


What's the difference this year? Chase Daniel has the talent of Brad Smith with the attitude of Corby Jones. Like Nick Papageorgio at the tables in Vegas Vacation, Daniel has the hot hand and he's surrounded by talent. Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker are among the nation's best tight ends. Jeremy Maclin runs through defenses quicker than The Stretch through a late night patron. Running back Tony Temple is healthy again - easing worries that he would become the Kansas City equivalent of Tony Van Zant. 


In the final Vacation installment Papageorgio won it all for the well-traveled Griswolds. Chase Daniel can do the same. At the end of Vegas Vacation, each member of the family immediately jumped into their new cars to drive back to the Midwest. Mizzou fans pay close attention - you'll notice they left their baggage behind.  


My AP Top 25 Ballot


1.       Ohio State

2.       LSU

3.       Oregon

4.       Oklahoma

5.       West Virginia

6.       Missouri

7.       Kansas

8.       Virginia Tech

9.       Boston College

10.    Arizona State

11.    UConn

12.    Hawaii

13.    Georgia

14.    Texas

15.    Michigan

16.    Boise State

17.    Auburn

18.    USC

19.    Florida

20.    Tennessee

21.    Virginia

22.    Cal

23.    Clemson

24.    Cincinnati

25.    Kentucky